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Mentoring is one of my favorite experiences as a graduate student. I strive to create a positive and exciting learning environment for both students and myself. Every summer, I get to work with undergraduate students through the KBS Undergraduate Research Assistance (URA) Program and Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU). I also work with a number of enthusiastic high school student volunteers.


Nolan Foust, Kalamazoo Collage, MI  (REU 2014)

2014-07-25 13.30.11Nolan examined the effects of soil nitrogen abundance on plant-rhizobia mutualisms in hog peanut, Amphicarpaea bracteata, for his REU project and as part of his honors degree requirements at Kalamazoo Collage.

Chantia Sulph, Albany State University, GA  (URA 2014)

IMG_2690Chantia assisted my field and greenhouse experiments. She was also involved in a project examining the effects of light and soil nitrogen on Rhizobium-Legume Symbiosis (Grman et al. In prep)

Cristy Portales, University of Texas-Austin, TX (URA 2012 and REU 2013)

Cristy and garlic mustard

Cristy and garlic mustard

Cristy worked with me as an URA in the summer 2012.  In collaboration with another URA, Tina Van Doornik, she conducted an independent project examining the effects of invasive garlic mustard on plant-rhizobia symbiosis. She then returned to KBS as a REU in 2013 to expand her project. This work is now published! She’s a grad student in Isbell lab at University of Minnesota.

Robert Sutherland, Marquita Tilloston, and Gyannon Connoly-Ng, Michigan State University, MI (URA 2013)

Rob, Marquita and Gyannon were a super team of URAs in 2013. They helped me with various aspects of field and greenhouse experiments.


Christina (Tina) VanDoornik, Michigan State University, MI (URA 2012)


Tina pipetting rhizobium inoculant

Tina executed an independent research project with Cristy Portales in 2012. This work is now published in Biological Invasions. She also helped Liz Schultheis’s dissertation project. She’s currently doing her masters in at University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Yi Liu, Michigan State University, MI (URA 2011)


At Kalamazoo Nature Center

Yi helped me mainly with greenhouse work and observational study of hog peanuts in southwestern Michigan. After finishing her undergraduate degree at MSU, Yi did a Master degree in Environmental Toxicology  at UC Rriverside.

Hayley Schebor, Michigan State University  (Learn and Intern Program at KBS 2010)

Hayley watering soybean plants

Hayley watering soybean plants

Hayley was involved in a greenhouse experiment looking at the effects of herbicide on soybean-rhzobia symbiosis.  She also helped by isolating rhizobia from soybean nodules. After completing her undergraduate degree at MSU, Hayley did a Masters degree in Micrbiology at  Miami University in Ohio.


Eleanore (Ellen)  S. James, Delton Kellogg High School (Volunteer 2014)

Ellen James Ellen spent her days in the field, greenhouse, and the lab taking leaf samples, harvesting rhizobia nodules, and isolating rhizobia strains. Check out her article in KBS E-Station to Station Newsletter. She is currently studying microbiology  at University of Michigan.

Sam Peters, Kalamazoo Area Math & Science Center (Volunteer 2013)

IMG_1627 Sam conducted an dependent project and examined whether field-collected rhizobia originating from either high and low soil nitrogen levels benefit plants (Trifolium repens) differntly.  He presented his work at Southwest Michigan Science & Engineering Fair at Western Michigan University.

Megan Makenzie, Battle Creek Central High School and Battle Creek Area Math & Science Center (NSF Research Assistantships for High School Student 2011-2012)

Megan McKenzie

Megan growing hog peanut in the greenhouse

Megan was funded through the NSF-RHASS program during 2011-2012 and worked with Liz and me on field and greenhouse experiments examining the effects of garlic mustard on hog peanut plants, a native legume species, hog peanut (Amphicarpaea bracteata). You can check out the article here. Since then, Cristy and Tina followed up on her work and conducted a series of greenhouse and lab experiments.


Sabian Taylor, Kelsey Cole and Kelsey Ernst, Plainwell High School (Volunteer 2012)


Sabian, Kelsey E, Kelsey C (front to back) at Kalamazoo Nature Center

I met these great high schoolers through GK-12 program. I mentored their independent projects in AP Biology class during 2011-2012. Sabian did a lot of field work with me that summer.

Naomi Joseph, Battle Creek Math & Science Center (Volunteer 2012)

IMG_4156Naomi is a motivated high school student who contacted us to gain some experience in science. She definitely gained some authentic field experience that summer!