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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: Kavi Acharya +

Advisor: Dr. Shuizhang Fei

Degree Sought: Ph.D.

Major: IGG

Current Research: Not yet Finalized

Career Goals: Be as useful as possible to society.

Hometown: Banepa, Nepal

Hobbies: Strolling around nature


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.

Career Goals: Extension and Outreach for commercial greenhouse growers.

Hometown: Grinnell, Iowa

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

Introducing: Bandana Bhusal +

Advisor: Dr. Shui-zang Fei

Degree Sought: PhD

Major: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Current Research: Use of computational tools for the study of freezing tolerance/disease resistance, summer dormancy and floral transition in perennial ground cover crops.

Career Goals: I aim to make myself proficient in the use of computational tools to unravel the underlying mechanisms of important crop species for the betterment of the world.

Hometown: Bhairahawa, Nepal

Hobbies: Dancing, Baking, Singing, Hiking.

Introducing: Molly Biggs +

Advisor: Dr. Adam Thoms

Degree Sought: M.S. of Horticulture

Major: Horticulture, emphasis in turfgrass management  

Current Research: Golf course putting green management   

Career Goals: Travel, have a family, love my job

Hometown: Topeka, Kansas

Hobbies: Golf, showing cattle, and making wines from different oak trees

Introducing: Anne Carey +

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.

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

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

Introducing: Smriti Chaudhary +

Major Professor: Dr. Ajay Nair

Degree Sought: MS in Sustainable Agriculture

Major: Sustainable Agriculture and Horticulture

Current Research: My current research focuses on looking at the efficacy of insect netting for pest management organic vegetable production system

Career Goals: Formulate sustainable, eco-friendly and economical recommendations for grower’s benefits

Hometown: Punjab, India

Hobbies: Love collecting stamps and coins, and being a plant mom!

Introducing: Prathyusha Cheguri +

Advisor: Dr. Shui Zhang Fei

Degree Sought: PhD

Major(s): Interdepartmental Genetics and Genomics

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.

Hometown: Hyderabad, INDIA

Hobbies: Painting, Dancing and traveling

Introducing: Keyshell Cole Hodgson +

Major Professor: Dr. Adam Thoms

Degree Sought: M.S. of Horticulture

Major: Horticulture, emphasis in turfgrass management

Current Research: Turfgrass Management

Career Goals: Work for FIFA, Create my own business and travel around the world with my job and also for fun.

Hometown: Limón, Costa Rica

Hobbies: Sowing Sun flowers and Aloe vera, going for a hike, contemplate nature, and watch sports and movies.

Introducing: Brooke Dietsch +

Major Professor: Suzanne Slack

Degree Sought: Master’s

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: Viticultural practices of interspecific cold hardy hybrids. Disease identification of declining grapevines in the state of Iowa. 

Career Goals: Extension or pursuing a career with the USDA ARS. Happiness hopefully.  

Hometown: Waterloo, Iowa

Hobbies: Cats, fiber arts, baking, ceramics, and pasta making. 

Introducing: Hannah Kramer +

Major Professor: Dr. Chris Currey

Degree Sought: Masters

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: The effects of pH on hydroponic culinary herb production

Career Goals: Greenhouse Extension

Hometown: Dubuque, IA

Hobbies: Gardening, reading, music, video games

Introducing: Vipul Kumar +

Major Professor: Dr. Shui-zheng Fei

Degree Sought: Ph.D

Major: Plant Breeding

Current Research: I’d be working on the genetics and breeding of the ground cover for summer seed dormancy in corn. 

Career Goals:As a passionate and aspiring plant scientist, I’m determined to revolutionize agriculture by leveraging cutting-edge molecular plant breeding technologies. My ultimate goal is to play a significant role in improving global food security and sustainability.

Hometown: Haryana, India

Hobbies: I like meeting new people and developing connections. Apart from that, I am very much into music, especially instrumental. I love playing soccer, badminton and working out in the gym. 

Introducing: Shillah Kwikiiriza +

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.

Hometown:  Bushenyi, Uganda.

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

Introducing: Jacie Legois +

Advisor: Dr. Ajay Nair

Degree Sought:


Current Research:

Career Goals:



Introducing: Dakota McKune +

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.

Hometown: Davenport, Iowa

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

Introducing: Zac Messer +

Advisor: Adam Thoms

Degree Sought: MS

Major: Horticulture (Turfgrass)

Current Research: Sod Tensile Strength

Career Goals: Turfgrass agronomist

Hometown: Goodfield, Illinois 

Hobbies: Golf, Hunting, Fishing, and growing turfgrass

Introducing: Olivia Meyer +

Advisor: Dr. Suzanne Slack

Degree Sought: Ph.D.

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: Cider apple cultivars: cider quality and tree health in modern training systems.

Career Goals: Supervisor/superintendent of a research station specializing in specialty crop research.

Hometown: Dubuque, Iowa

Hobbies: I’m the head coach of the boxing sports club at Iowa State. We do a lot of traveling via car to boxing competitions, so I can double dip into my other hobby: ‘popcorn’ horror fiction audiobooks. It comes in handy when I need to stay awake on the drive back to Ames when all my athletes are asleep in the back seat…

Introducing: Modestos A. Modestou +

Advisor: Dr. Shui-zhang Fei and Dr. Kenneth Moore

Degree Sought: Ph.D.

Major: Crop Production and Physiology

Current Research: Summer dormancy and vernalization in Poa secunda

Career Goals: I want to continue to do research in the area of crop production and physiology and to teach plant biochemistry and physiology at the college level, emphasizing sustainable agriculture

Hometown: Limassol, Cyprus 

 Hobbies: Traveling, hiking, exploring nature, reading, spending time at coffee shops, playing backgammon

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.

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.

Hometown: Linden, Iowa

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

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.

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.

Hometown: Waverly, IA

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

Introducing: Akshaya Thinakaran +

Advisor: Dr. Ajay Nair

Degree Sought: M.S. Horticulture

Major: Horticulture

Current Research: Not yet decided

Career Goals: Make everything sustainable, eco-friendly production of fruits and vegetables

Hometown: Tamil Nadu, India

Hobbies: Love to cook, drawing, visiting historical places


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