ASPB Announces Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship 2017 Recipients

Rockville, MD (June 1, 2017) Fifteen students mentored by members of the American Society of Plant
Biologists (ASPB) were selected to receive the 2017 ASPB Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships
(SURF). The $4,000 fellowship permits each student to devote full-time effort to his or her research
project for a 10-week period during the summer. The award also includes $700 to the mentor or
institution for lab supplies, a free student membership in ASPB for one year, and travel grant assistance
to attend the 2018 ASPB Plant Biology meeting.

There were 26 Category A (Research and Doctoral Universities) and 11 Category B (Master’s Universities, Baccalaureate Colleges, and Associate of Art Colleges) applicants for a total of 37 highly competitive projects. The reviewers were impressed by the high quality of all the applicants’ projects and the commitment of the students and their mentors to their ongoing research.

The SURF program was once again co-chaired by Michael Campbell, Penn State, and Burkhard Schulz,
The University of Maryland. This is the seventeenth year of the program. SURF is funded by the ASPB
Executive Committee and ASPB Good Works funds. SURF chairs and other ASPB members support the
fellowship program in many ways, including reviewing applications, selecting recipients and supporting
their research.

Complete project descriptions and photos can be viewed at the ASPB website:

The 2017 SURF winners are:

Group A – Doctoral Granting Institutions

Samantha Connolly, University of Vermont
Project: Determining the Function of NPF1A in Lotus japonicus
Mentor: Dr. Jeanne M. Harris

Cameron Criswell, Texas A&M University
Project: Understanding Plant Cell Death With “bak to life” Screens
Mentor: Dr. Ping He

David “Max” Hagelthorn, UC Davis
Project: Functional Characterization of Stress-Inducible Diterpene Synthases in Switchgrass
Mentor: Dr. Philipp Zerbe

Christopher Imler, University of Florida
Project: Genetic and biochemical evidence for direct rhizosphere acidification in Vaccinium corymbosum
Mentor: Dr. Gerardo Nunez

Victoria Morris, University of California, Riverside
Project: Microtubule Dynamics in Cell Division using Maize Tangled1
Mentor: Dr. Carolyn Rasmussen

McKenzie Pickle, University of California, Riverside
Project: Role of Microtubule Dynamics in Cell Division using Maize tangled-1 Mutant
Mentor: Dr. Carolyn Rasmussen

Angus Rae, University of Newcastle, Australia
Project: Measuring Cell Wall Anisotropy in Arabidopsis Roots Using Polarised Fluorescence
Mentor: Dr. David Collings

Alex Riley, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Project: System Genetics of Rhizobium Mutualists of Varying Partner Quality
Mentor: Dr. Amy Marshall-Colon

Elizabeth Winnicki, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Project: Analyzing the Genetic Diversity of the Varieties of Sweet Potato Found in Hawaii & North
Mentor: Dr. Michael Kantar

Robert Yvon, University of Massachusetts
Project: Discovering the Connections of the FERONIA Receptor Kinase and its Functional Partners in
Mentor: Dr. Alice Cheung

Group B – Primarily Undergraduate Institutions

Patricia Goytortua, Instituto Politécnico Nacional
Project: Effect of having a PT or Pising allele associated with lipid metabolism of maize plants grown in
Mexican Highland conditions.
Mentor: Dr. Rubén Rellán-Álvarez

Kenneth Kim, University of West Georgia
Project: Molecular characterization of two high light-sensitive Chlamydomonas reinhardtii mutants,
defective in a novel functionally uncharacterized gene.
Mentor: Dr. Mautusi Mitra

Tayler Lewis, Radford University
Project: Computational Modeling of the AS1/AS2 Complex
Mentor: Dr. Tara Phelps-Durr

Lauren Pope, James Madison University
Project: Structural and Physiological Characterization of Arabidopsis thaliana β-Amylase 2: a Unique
Starch-degrading Enzyme
Mentor: Dr. Jonathan Monroe

Jennifer Walz, University of St. Thomas
Project: Determining the role of xanthophyll cycle dynamics and thermal energy dissipation in the
desiccation tolerance of common bryophytes in Minnesota.
Mentor: Dr. Amy Verhoeven

ASPB is a professional scientific society, headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, devoted to the
advancement of the plant sciences worldwide. With a membership of some 4,500 plant scientists from
throughout the United States and more than 50 other nations, the Society publishes two of the most
widely cited plant science journals: The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology. For more information about
ASPB, please visit Also, follow ASPB on Facebook at and
on Twitter @ASPB.

Winnie Nham, Education Coordinator
American Society of Plant Biologists
(301) 296-0902,

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