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Congratulations, Dr. Carrie Tribble!!

Dr. Carrie Tribble submitted her dissertation this past week and is now officially Dr. Tuber!!  Carrie  presented her three chapters at lab meeting this week (via zoom) which involve (1) an investigation of evolution and diversification of underground storage organs and correlations with climate parameters across the order Liliales, (2) an investigation of genes underlying tuber formation in Bomarea edulis, and (3) contributing to RevGadgets to enable visualization and analysis of complex comparative phylogenetic data and results.






Congratulations Carrie!!!  Carrie will continue her awesome academic trajectory as a postdoc with Rosana Zenil-Ferguson at University of Hawaii at Manoa!!

Spotlight on Jesús

Graduate Student Jesús Martínez-Gómez appears in today’s Student Spotlight by the Graduate School.  A few highlights are below:

Jesús Martínez-Gómez is a doctoral candidate in plant biology from Ferndale, Washington. After attending the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington as an undergraduate, he decided to pursue further study at Cornell for his advisor and the facilities.

What inspired you to choose this field of study?

I am a sucker for origin stories. I love superhero movies where protagonists find their superpowers and use it to save the day. Their origins will often contextualize their future struggles as they deal with the ramification of their superpowers. I think evolutionary biology is one big origin story. We strive to identify the origin of species relationships or the genes which produce diverse structures. These stories are compelling as they tell us where we come from and how the world around us is related. Plants in particular pose one of the largest origin story questions as they are so diverse and so important to our everyday life. 

2020 Graduate Rosy Glos wins Merrill Presidential Scholarship

Huge congratulations to Rosy Glos for being named as a 2020 Merrill Presidential Scholar. Rosy is one of 35 students at Cornell to receive this prestigious award, highlighting her place in the top 1% of graduating seniors. Since 1988, the Merrill Presidential Scholars Program has honored Cornell University’s most outstanding graduating seniors, while also recognizing the teachers who have played a significant role in ensuring their success. Each scholar selected is given an opportunity to recognize the high school teacher who most inspired their scholastic development and the Cornell faculty member who most significantly contributed to their college experience. In a normal year, we’d be celebrating Rosy at a lovely convocation ceremony in which both the faculty member (me!!!) and Rosy’s botany high school teacher, David Streib, from New Roots School would be present.  One of the amazing aspects of the Merrill Scholarship is the direct way in which Rosy will now be giving back to her community: A STAR (Special Teachers Are Recognized) Scholarship will be named in honor of David Streib, awarded to a Cornell student with financial need from Rosy’s hometown.

Click here for more information about the Merrill Presidential Scholarship Program and the 2020 cohort of scholars.

Rosy worked on two fundamental research projects in the Specht Lab:  she first worked with Erika Styger in IP-CALS and traveled to Suriname to meet with farmers and collect rice seed in order to investigate links between genotype and phenotype in cultivated rice of the Sa’amaka people; then switched gears to complete an honors thesis in collaboration with NSF Postdoctoral Fellow Shayla Salzman, characterizing diversity and evolution of leaf anatomical traits across the cycad genus Zamia.  For her senior thesis project, Rosy travelled to the Montgomery Botanical Center and Fairchild Botanical Gardens (Miami, Florida) to collect, preserve, section, and stain leaf material from their living collections.  Rosy continues to stain and image Zamia leaves from her home base on Kingbird Farm located just southeast of Ithaca NY.


Plant Science Undergraduate Symposium – Specht Lab highlights

Three undergraduates affiliated with the Specht Lab over their years at Cornell presented research seminars at the annual Plant Science Undergraduate Symposium today (May 13th) via zoom.  Rosy Glos presented her senior thesis research on leaf anatomy across the genus Zamia; Zhaoqi Wang presented on his research (also mentored by Shayla Salzman) looking at environmental correlates of leaf morphology in Zamia; Martha Williams provided insights into the work she did with Cornell Cooperative Extension developing programs for Garden Based Learning in Queens, NY.  The symposium highlighted the work of the 25 Plant Science 2020 Graduates who have contributed to research across SIPS (

Graduating Senior Rosy Glos wins BSA and SUNY excellence awards

Rosemary Glos,  Plant Science 2020, is wrapping up her time at Cornell with a very large bang. In early April, Rosy was notified of being awarded a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence that highlights her academic accomplishments as well as her outstanding leadership and community service that formed part of her stellar undergraduate career.  Rosy is one of only four Cornell students to win the award this year!

Rosy was also selected for a Young Botanist award from the Botanical Society of America in recognition for her excellence in the botanical sciences and her participation in BSA activities.  This award will provide her with a free year membership to BSA in addition to access to the American Journal of Botany.

Rosy will be presenting her senior thesis research on 13 May 2020.  A link will be posted here!!

Graduate Seminars Galore

Graduate students Heather Phillips, Adriana Hernández, and Clarice Guan will all be presenting their student seminars this spring via Zoom.  Contact us for the link to see upcoming seminars live, or follow the links to check out their recorded videos.

Heather’s video from April 17, 2020:

Adriana’s video from April 24, 2020:

Adriana advances to Candidacy

Congratulations to Adriana Hernandez for passing her A exam and advancing to candidacy on December 13th 2019.  Adriana’s committee consisted of Professors Kevin Nixon, Monica Geber, and Rob Raguso who questioned her on ecological and evolutionary genetics focusing on diversification of Calochortus venustus and the California flora more broadly.        

Shayla gives Plant Bio Seminar

Dr. Shayla Salzman presented her doctoral research as well as future directions for her NSF-funded postdoctoral fellowship research as part of the Section of Plant Biology seminar series.  If you happened to miss it live — well, you missed a great introduction to Cycads, symbioses, and Shayla and the work that she does to investigate how relationships drive evolutionary innovation.

But fortunately, you can catch it as a recorded version right here:

Specht Lab at Botany 2019

We had quite the showing at Botany 2019 in Tucson, Arizona this year.  Heather, Clarice, Rosy and Jesus presented posters (and come to 5th floor Mann to check them out!!!) while Jacob, Eugenio, Carrie, Jesus, and Adriana gave oral presentations on their various research projects.  In the photo above, you can see how the Specht lab family is growing through the students and postdocs of current professors Dr. Laura Lagomarsino (LSU; former Specht Lab undergrad 2006-2009), Dr. Tanya Renner (PSU; former Specht Lab PhD 2012), and Dr. Madelaine Bartlett (UMASS; former Specht Lab PhD 2010).  My own mentors Dennis Stevenson and Bruce Kirchoff were also there to show their support and share in our sense of belonging!


And our newest graduate Dr. Joyce Chery was there showcasing her dissertation research on vascular cambium variants in Paullina (Sapindales).  Dr. Chery is now a postdoctoral research at Penn State University in the Lignocellulose group, collaborating with an exciting group of researchers investigating the cell biology of vasculature.

It was a wonderful networking experience, and a good time was had by all.  Check out our Facebook page for more information, or follow us on twitter where all the information appears in real time ;-).


Jesus rocks #Evol2019 with his umbel-ievable presentation!

I attended my very first Evolution 2019! What a fantastic meeting full for super interesting topics ranging from the Macro to the micro. I got to put faces on the names of researcher from the literature and catch up with old friends!

In addition to all the fabulous science, the organizers and member of Evolution 2019 did a fantastic job of generating a culture of inclusivity. Safe Evolution was prominent in all aspects of the meeting, from the Safe Evolution pins, the EvoAllys and code of conduct. It was particularly inspiring that these initiatives where lead and supportive by  PIs of the community. I think many other society can learn a lot form Evolution!

But I also gave a talk! I was very nervous for it but received much positive feedback afterwards. What it below!

Many other highlights were catching up with the eFlower folks, free swag from Phyloreferencing project, the Providence Fire Fest, almost getting shot with Elizabeth Carlens pigeon gun (it didn’t work) and the Story Collider Outside the distribution!


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