Meet some of PPEM's 2017 Ph.D., M.S., Intercollege, and World Campus graduates, as well as undergraduates who minored in Plant Pathology and/or Mushroom Science and Technology or who worked in PPEM labs.

Graduate Program

Magdama-Freddy.jpgFreddy Arturo Magdama Tobar, dual Ph.D. Plant Pathology, International Agriculture and Development

Freddy Arturo Magdama Tobar, of Guayaquil, Ecuador, wants to strengthen the research capabilities in his homeland and contribute to solving the major problems there related to crop production caused by plant pathogens and new emerging diseases.

Magdama's dissertation is titled "Population biology of Fusarium oxysporum associated with banana in Ecuador." His research objectives were to study the nature of pathogenic and endophytic populations of Fusarium oxysporum, a fungal plant pathogen that causes Panama disease of the banana associated with the banana crops in Ecuador and most banana-producing regions of the world. His research studied the evolutionary histories of the banana species and the interactions with ecology. He focused on the genetic diversity of the pathogenic populations affecting "Gros Michel" bananas in Ecuador, as well as the genetic diversity of endophytic populations associated with the Cavendish "Williams" bananas.

Following graduation, Freddy assumed his responsibilities at the Centro de Investigaciones Biotecnológicas del Ecuador (CIBE) as Head of the Dept. of Plant Pathology/Microbiology and Associate Professor at the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (ESPOL) in the College of Life Sciences.

When asked what advice he would give to future graduate students, Freddy said, "Don't be afraid to try new things. Do not be afraid to think different. Failure is a requirement for success." He believes the best learning experiences are acquired during the most difficult times.

Mazzone-JennieSW.jpgJennie Diehl Mazzone, dual M.S. Plant Pathology, International Agriculture and Development

Jennie Mazzone, formerly of Newburg, PA, pursued a dual master's degree in Plant Pathology and International Agriculture and Development (INTAD). Jennie was first introduced to Plant Pathology in Dr. Elizabeth Brantley's Forest Ecosystem Protection course at Penn State Mont Alto. Jennie furthered her interest by learning how to design and implement a research project at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center (FREC). However, the passion came full circle when she began to work in the Penn State Plant Disease Clinic.

Jennie's thesis is titled "Responding to growers' needs: evaluation of management strategies for onion center rot caused by Pantoea ananatis and Pantoea agglomerans." Her research focused on the challenges Pennsylvania onion growers continually face by in-field and post-harvest yield losses due to bacterial pathogens. The primary bacterial pathogens in Pennsylvania include the onion center rot pathogens Pantoea ananatis and Pantoea agglomerans. Jennie noted there were a number of cultural and in-season management practices used by growers to reduce the risk of center rot; however, unacceptable losses still occurred. Jennie evaluated several management strategies, including cultivar selection, augmented nitrogen fertigation programs, and pre-plant onion transplant treatments.

Jennie accepted a diagnostician position with Bartlett Tree Experts in Charlotte, NC, where she will regularly draw upon her Penn State Plant Pathology knowledge and skills to diagnose plant diseases. Her Penn State experiences were heavily rooted in Extension and a dual INTAD degree, making her both an effective communicator with a wide range of stakeholders and committed to a career of service.

When asked what advice she would give to future students, Mazzone said, "Expose yourself to different systems, environments, and tools used in plant pathology so you will have a diversified skill set."

Intercollege Program

Minkenberg-Bastian.jpgBastian Minkenberg, Ph.D. Plant Biology

Bastian was a Monsanto's Beachell-Borlaug International Scholar who worked at the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences with Prof. Yinong Yang from the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology. After graduation he joined the Innovative Genomics Institute at UC Berkeley as Postdoctoral Researcher to continue his work on genome-editing in crops.

World Campus

The intercollege Master of Professional Studies (iMPS) Homeland Security-Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense Option degree is an online program through World Campus. It offers flexibility and convenience, allowing one to connect with faculty apart from a classroom setting and to work full time while pursuing a degree.

Lindsay Gabbart, iMPS Homeland Security-Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense

Undergraduate Program

Christian-Elena_SW.jpgElena Christian, B.S. Immunology and Infectious Disease

Elena accepted a position as Research Technician at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Boston.

Getson_Sara_profile.jpgSara Getson, B.S. Plant Science, Agroecology Option; B.S. French and Francophone Studies; Plant Pathology, Mushroom Science and Technology, and Entomology minors

Sara Getson, of State College, PA, pursued minors in mushroom science and plant pathology because she "fell in love" with them and decided it was something she wanted to study after taking PPEM 120 (The Fungal Jungle: A Mycological Safari from Truffles to Slime Molds) during her first semester.

Sara was totally committed to Plant Pathology and immersed herself in research. She started working in Plant Pathology labs during her second semester, where she learned lab basics and assisted with mushroom composting work at the Mushroom Research Center. She continued working for many different labs in the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology (PPEM), thus increasing her plant pathology and mycology knowledge and lab skills.

When asked to describe for prospective students some highlights of the department minors, Sara said, "The topic of plant pathology is awesome, and it really has everything to do with the professors. The faculty members in Plant Pathology are amazing," and she felt a genuine sense of support from the PPEM faculty throughout her career. She added, "The courses not only help you protect your gardens from disease, but you learn about the fascinating beneficial connections between plants and fungi and how they interact with one another."

Getson accepted an assistantship at Michigan State University to pursue a Ph.D. in Plant Pathology under Dr. Mary Hausbeck. Sara hopes to work in AG extension in the future.

Petrella-Jennifer_profile.jpgJennifer Petrella, B.S. Biology, Plant Option; Plant Pathology minor

Jennifer Petrella, of Garnet Valley, PA, was first introduced to plant diseases at Penn State Brandywine by Dr. Bourdeau through BIO 240. At University Park Jen worked in the Plant Disease Clinic (PDC) with Sara May, PDC Coordinator, assisting with Colletotrichum research. Petrella also had an opportunity in Dr. Beth Gugino's lab to work on the effects of soil borne pathogens on snap beans.

Jen plans to use the knowledge and skills gained through her Plant Pathology minor to work in a laboratory setting before she pursues graduate studies.

Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology


211 Buckhout Lab
University Park, PA 16802