My career developmental aims are to 1) build interdisciplinary competencies and collaborations, 2) develop and utilize molecular and phenotyping tools for high-throughput investigation of etiological agents, 3) use these data to further our understanding of plant susceptibility to disease, 4) create durably disease resistant plant cultivars, and 5) mentor the next generation of scientists in the process. As an out member of the LGBTQ community, I also strive to be a role model and mentor for those whom have historically lacked representation or run a high risk of dropping out of STEM through visibility, active engagement with LGBTQ STEM programs, and through facilitation of a community LGBTQ high school support group.
After working as a diagnostician both at OSU and while running my own consulting company, I decided to return to graduate school after growing frustrated with the lack of available tools for efficacious and durable disease management. As a PhD student, I have focused my research on exploring a promising approach at achieving durable disease resistance: by targeting disease susceptibility genes, a strategy that has been effectively deployed against powdery mildew for over 40 years in European spring-planted barley. The major areas of research involve the i) use CRISPR-Cas tools to disrupt S-genes in Humulus, ii) subsequently phenotype and genotype successfully edited regenerants for pleiotropic effects and off-target mutations, and iii) using high throughput phenomics and machine learning to screen the Humulus spp. world collection for lines that naturally exhibit broad powdery mildew resistance. My research has tangible benefits for the U.S. hop industry through reduced fungicide use and reduced variance in crop damage. More broadly, my research will provide a roadmap for discovery and development of more durable disease resistance and accelerate CRISPR/Cas editing in hop and other recalcitrant plants for traits of importance.
PI: David Gent