Students, Staff and Post-Docs

Yue Shan

Yue Shan
NC State University

Yue Shan is an Economics Ph.D.  student at North Carolina State University. Her fields of research are agricultural economics and international trade.  She had joined the team as a research assistant. She hopes to contribute her knowledge and skills to the project and learn from the project.

Sam Humphrey

NC State University

Sam Humphrey is a Masters student studying strawberry propagation in controlled environments with Dr. Ricardo Hernández. He is working to understand how strawberry plants react to environmental cues like temperature, light intensity, and carbon dioxide concentration, to improve propagation efficiency and plant quality. He is also a Fairchild ‘Growing Beyond Earth’ Graduate Fellow, Visiting Scholar at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science, writer for, and co-host of the American Society for Horticultural Science podcast. His interests include the engineering behind plant growth chambers and the design of bioregenerative life support systems.

Jung Hoon Han

NC State University

Jung Hoon Han is a PhD student in the department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University. His research focuses on food consumption and welfare changes. As a research assistant, his involvement in the project includes Development and Integration of Next-Generation Propagation Strategies to Enhance the Resilience of the US Strawberry Supply Chain as well as crop budget analysis and survey design.

Emma Volk

NC State University

Emma is a dual research assistant and masters student in the Horticulture Department at NCSU. Her research focuses on sustainable strawberry pest and disease management. She supports research initiatives for the NCSU Small Fruits program, focusing on strawberry, grapevine, and muscadine production research.

Samantha Simard

Cal Poly

Samantha Simard is currently a graduate student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Having received her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Science and a minor in Biology from Southern Utah University, Samantha also competed as a Division 1 athlete in cross country and track. Samantha returned to her hometown of San Luis Obispo to pursue a masters degree. As a Master of Science Candidate in Agriculture with a specialization in Plant Protection/Pathology, Samantha is privileged to be working on Strawberry PIP-CAP SCRI. 

Christina Ippoliti

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University of Maryland

Christina Ippoliti is a Ph.D. candidate in Molecular and Cellular Biology in Dr. Zhongchi Liu’s lab at the University of Maryland – College Park. She is passionate about sustainability; in her work and studies, she hopes to build bridges between molecular plant biology and regenerative agriculture. Her current research projects in the lab focus on understanding fruit and runner development and improving genetic transfection methods in strawberry. Her hobbies include hiking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

Xi Luo

University of Maryland

Xi is a postdoctoral associate in Prof. Zhongchi Liu lab at the department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD. She received her Ph.D. in the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, studying plant development using Arabidopsis. In 2019, she joined Dr. Zhongchi Liu’s lab at UMD, and her research projects focus on the regulation of compound leaf morphology and anthocyanin accumulation of diploid strawberries. These projects exposed her to the genomic and bioinformatics tools, which identify DNA variants in various genetic populations.

Erin Yafuso

Erin is a postdoctoral researcher with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. She works in Dr. Jennifer Boldt’s lab at the Toledo, OH worksite of the Application Technology Research Unit. Erin has a PhD in Horticultural Sciences from the University of Florida. Her research focused on visualizing the distribution of water and air through container substrates by nano-computed tomography. In her current role, Erin will focus on nutrient optimization of strawberry mother plants in controlled environments to enhance daughter plant propagation rates and quality.  

Pooja Tripathi

The Ohio State University

I am a first year PhD student at the Ohio State University. Before joining Ohio State, I received a master’s degree in Plant Biosciences from South Korea.  I am working on developing controlled environment strategies to condition young plants for optimized propagation behavior in strawberry transplants, supervised by Dr. Kubota. Our focus is to develop greenhouse propagation methodologies for year-round supply of daughter plants.  

Brandon Shur

NC State University

Brandan Shur is a Masters student at North Carolina State University’s Horticultural Substrates Lab. His research focus is studying soilless substrate production of greenhouse produced crops, with an emphasis on controlled strawberry production. He will be evaluating different soilless substrate components and formulations, including a heavy focus on further understanding alternative substrates, such as the potential of engineered wood fiber. He is also a Goodnight Scholar recipient, and taken on many leadership positions, including the Horticulture Club President and Vice President of Pi Alpha Xi, and University ambassador. Being raised on a family peach orchard, Brandan has had an interest in fruit production since his early involvement as a young boy.

Michael Palmer

NC State University

Michael is a PhD student in the Horticulture department at NCSU. His research focuses on using controlled environment chilling and light treatments to produce optimized strawberry tray plants. Michael got his BS and MS at California Polytechnic State University working with the Cal Poly Strawberry Center to further understanding of significant diseases affecting strawberry.

Lian Mahorith Duron Alvarado

Purdue University logo

Lian Durón is a Masters student in the department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Purdue University. Her research focuses on developing environmental strategies to maintain quality during long-term storage of strawberry rooted and unrooted tips. Lian was born in
Honduras and has a BS from Zamorano University. She hopes to get an industry job in controlled environments after the completion of her graduate program.

Ian Mellon

NC State University

Ian Mellon is a Research Technician with Dr. Gina Fernandez developing elite strawberry and caneberry cultivars. He completed his Master’s degree from Cornell University studying plant breeding and plant pathology. His goal is to improve yield, disease resistance, and genetic diversity of North Carolina strawberries utilizing modern molecular techniques.

Calyssa Stevenson

NC State University

Calyssa Stevenson is a Master’s student in Dr. Gina Fernandez’s lab at NCSU. Her research focuses on evaluating the fruit quality of strawberry runners propagated in controlled environments once transferred to the field. Calyssa received her B.S. in Plant Breeding and Biotechnology in Horticultural Science from NC State. As an undergrad, she gained experience in meristemming strawberry lines in tissue culture at the Micropropagation and Repository Unit (MPRU). Alongside her research, Calyssa will continue her work in tissue culture at the MPRU with the aim of establishing an elite secondary inventory containing all of Dr. Fernandez’s strawberry breeding lines.

Moein Moosavi-Nezhad

NC State University
Moein Moosavi-Nezhad is a Ph.D. student in the Horticultural Sciences department at NC State University, working in the Controlled-Environment Agriculture Lab under Ricardo Hernandez. He started working in CEA in 2016 at the University of Tehran focusing on plant-light interactions in grafted vegetables and finished his master’s in 2019. After graduating, he continued research on light-plant interactions in CEA and joined the Strawberry PIP-CAP SCRI in August 2022. Here, he is evaluating strawberry daughter-to-mother ratio efficiency with a focus on light characteristics such as photoperiod, light quality, intensity, angle, etc. At NC State, he has taken on leadership positions such as Horticultural Graduate Student Association international students representative and a program coordinator of the Iranian Student Association. You can learn more about his work in his Allmylinks.

Ava Forystek

Ava is a Master’s student at Cornell University, where she is conducting research on the phenotypic differences in strawberry plants grown via field production. Her study involves field trials to distinguish between conventionally propagated (bare root) strawberry plantlets and those propagated in a controlled environment. Her research primarily focuses on assessing fruit quality, fruit output, and plant vigor.

In addition to her academic pursuits, Ava is a Wallace-Carver Fellow, inducted member of Pi Alpha Xi, and an alumna of the Borlaug-Ruan internship program. Furthermore, she currently holds positions on the executive boards of both the Cornell Society of Horticulture and the Student Association of the Geneva Research Station. During her free time, Ava maintains a large collection of plants, primarily consisting of aroids, and spends time with Kousa, her German Shepherd.