Skip To Main Content

Graduate Profiles

Our graduate students work on exciting and important research projects and become industry leaders after graduation. Simply click on a name to meet the Horticulture Department's newest graduate students.

Introducing: Prathyusha Cheguri +

Advisor: Dr. Shui Zhang Fei

Degree Sought: PhD

Major(s): Interdepartmental Genetics and Genomics

Hometown: Hyderabad, INDIA

Current Research: Develop readily suppressed ground covers for maize and soybean with a main focus on summer dormancy grasses.

Career Goals: continue to work in academia and also a research scientist in plant breeding and genetics.

Hobbies: Painting, Dancing and traveling

Introducing: Carly Strauser +

Advisor: Dr. Ajay Nair

Degree Sought: Master of Science

Major(s): Horticulture and Sustainable Agriculture

Current Research: My research will look into the efficacy of tarping in direct-seeded vegetable crops. Tarping involves using a heavy-duty plastic, such as silage tarp, to be placed over the ground prior to planting to heat the soil and suppress weeds for a period of time. The length and type of weed suppression after tarping will be examined. I will also look at the effect this practice has on soil health and microbiology.

Hometown: Waverly, IA

Career Goals: I’m interested in working with growers through extension, outreach, or an organization promoting sustainability. I want to help implement and promote sustainable practices that build soil health and support regenerative agriculture as well as the grower.

Hobbies: Gardening, baking, visiting antique stores, and any outdoor activities

Introducing: Thomas Donelan +

Advisor: Dr. Adam Thoms

Degree Sought: Masters

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: I do field research on the effects of simulated athletic traffic on white clover and smooth crabgrass, as well as, the effects of wetting agents in athletic turfgrass. I have a laboratory study on determining the morphological and anatomical characteristics of traffic tolerant/sensitive tall fescue varieties.

Hometown: Waseca, Minnesota

Career Goals: Research or starting a goat dairy

Hobbies: Running, Reading, Working

Introducing: Nicole Arment +

Advisor: Dr. Chris Currey

Degree Sought: Master of Science

Major(s): Horticulture

Current Research: I will be exploring the effect of fertilization on the post-harvest performance of containerized herbs.

Hometown: Grinnell, Iowa

Career Goals: Extension and Outreach for commercial greenhouse growers.

Hobbies: Cooking and baking, window gardening, exploring new restaurants, and spoiling my dog.

Introducing: Dalena Rogers +

Advisor: Drs. Gail Nonnecke and Emily Zimmerman

Degree Sought: Master of Science

Major: Environmental Science and Horticulture

Current Research: Identifying and minimizing barriers to environmental-science curriculum implementation in local schools of St. John, USVI, and determining best seed priming strategies to enhance germination of native plant species to promote ecological restoration in St. John.  Hometown: Linden, Iowa

Career Goals: My improbable career goal is to gain employment in the United Nations Global Development Program as a program coordinator. My more likely career goal is to work in the extension field as an expert in sustainable food crop production.

Hobbies: Full-time houseplant and hamster mom, fitness classes, board games

Introducing: Jerimiah Johnson +

Advisor: Suzanne Slack

Degree Sought: Master of Science

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: Observing differences in yield from strawberries pollinated by a variety of bees and the influence of prairie strips to attract native pollinators. Also working on blueberry establishment using various soil amendments.

Hometown:  Boyne City, Michigan

Career Goals: Farm manager or master grower for cannabis or fruit crops. Also interested in extension work.  

Hobbies:  gardening, kayaking, hiking, movies (psychological horror), working out/yoga, and some video games. 

Introducing: Ryan Niepagen +

Advisor: Christopher Currey

Degree Sought: Master of Science

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: Optimizing production of root crops in controlled environments; currently focusing on recommended nutrition regimens and temperature for radish.

Hometown: Bloomington, Illinois

Career Goals: Assisting commercial growers through outreach and consulting.

Hobbies: Golf, traveling, gardening, vintage electronics.

Introducing: Samantha Lyle +

Advisor: Cindy Haynes

Degree Sought: Master of Science

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: My research will investigate how students learn plant identification. I have always been very passionate about connecting people with plants, and how people learn about plants is vital knowledge for a future horticulture educator. I will be looking into the effects of recall quizzing, compiling effort portfolios, and predicting achievement in the process of learning plant identification.

Hometown: Davenport, Iowa

Career Goals: Although I believe that our aspirations are ever changing, I would like to eventually work in extension/education or in public policy for science communication and literacy.

Hobbies: Scouring antique malls, cooking/baking, playing guitar, scrapbooking, floral design

Introducing: +


Introducing: +


Introducing: Dakota McKune +

Hometown: Davenport, Iowa

Advisor: Dr. Grant Thompson

Degree Sought: M.S. and Ph.D.

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: My research could generally be categorized under tree establishment and survival, involving the testing of remedial tree root treatments, growth substrate (such as mulch or gravel) effectiveness, and the resilience of certain species to the predicted conditions of climate change.

Career Goals: To be a part of a research team tasked with improving the survivability of trees against climate change.

Hobbies: Music composition and performance, drawing, foraging, techno-tinkering, plant and animal identification.

Introducing: Thomas Gould +

Hometown: West Des Moines, Iowa

Advisor: Dr. Adam Thoms

Degree Sought: Master of Science

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: I will be evaluating the effects of different methods of height of cut reduction on cool-season turf.

Career Goals: I would like to work as a Head Turf Manager for a power five university.

Hobbies: Running, hiking, travelling, listening to music and mowing.

Introducing: Taylor Mauch +

Hometown: Ankeny, Iowa

Major Professor: Dr. Ajay Nair

Degree Sought: Master of Science

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: My research studies the impacts on vegetable production of biochar application at varying rates with and without a compost addition

Career Goals: Working with an NGO at the international level

Hobbies: Biking, sewing, embroidery, reading, rollerblading, painting, gardening, hiking, cooking, baking

Introducing: Olivia Meyer +

Hometown: Dubuque, Iowa

Advisor:  Dr. Gleason/Dr. Nonnecke

Degree Sought: Masters

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: Studying the effects of using an Intelligent Sprayer (precision-targeted pesticide applicator) versus a conventional sprayer with different disease-warning systems on the efficacy in pest/disease management of apples, the economic impact considering the quantity of pesticide usage per sprayer/system and the influence of each sprayer/system on the quality of our surrounding environment.

Career Goals: Career with a technical bureau in the U.S. Department of Interior

Hobbies: Boxing, boxing, and more boxing!

Introducing: Anne Carey +

Hometown: I was born in San Diego, CA, but have lived in many different places around the world.

Advisor: Dr. Ajay Nair

Degree Sought: Master of Science

Major: Sustainable Agriculture & Horticulture

Current Research: I will be doing research in vegetable production. The project is looking at integrating chickens into vegetable and cover crop rotations.

Career Goals: I hope to be able to marry my production/ farming experience with research in order to create regional change in farming practices. I want to continue farming while also developing sustainable methods (such as appropriate cover crop mixtures, ways to integrate livestock and crop production, minimum tillage techniques, etc.) specifically adapted to a region (climate, soil type, etc.), which can be used as an example and education tool to encourage adoption of more sustainable and conservation related practices by other farmers in the region.

Hobbies: Cooking, hiking, reading, and basically being outside as much as I can.

Introducing: Shillah Kwikiiriza +

Hometown:  Bushenyi, Uganda.

Advisor:  Dr. Gail Nonnecke

Degree Sought:  Master of Science

Major:  Horticulture

Current Research:  Assessing the effect of cover crop mulches on onion production in Kamuli, Uganda. The study specifically seeks to establish the socio economic characteristics of local vegetable farmers, evaluating the effect of using cover crop mulches on onion production and also assess the economic feasibility of use of cover crop mulches on onion production.

Career Goals:  After my studies, I plan to go back to my home country to continue facilitating and empowering youth farmers in agriculture and other income generating innovation activities for their improved sustainable livelihoods.

Hobbies: Listening to music, cooking, hanging out with friends

Introducing: Lexi Young +

Hometown:  Des Moines, Iowa

Advisor:  Dr. Cindy Haynes

Degree Sought:  Master of Science

Major:  Horticulture

Current Research: I am passionate about appropriate gardens for the aging and elderly that are sophisticated and interesting. Far too often we see these communities being offered a simple raised bed with a few tomato plants and a handful of pedestrian annuals as a “garden” amenity. The long-term goal of my research is to create an inspiring resource for seniors with limited garden space to maximize the benefits of a small space garden. If gardeners can successfully downsize their gardens, and in so doing continue their gardening hobbies, as they transition into independent senior housing they will continue to experience the health benefits of gardening as they age. This can improve the quality of life while simultaneously improving the overall health of senior gardeners.

Career Goals: I plan to work with seniors, in their home gardens, in senior living communities, and in senior centers to improve their access to stimulating, challenging garden opportunities. I want to see gardening be accessible to all who want to reap its benefits. As the co-owner of a small landscaping business in central Iowa, Young Gardens, I am well positioned to shepard my research into these real-world applications.

Hobbies:  Gardening, all things Fiber-Arts, teaching my kid to love the outdoors



Close Video Player