Skip to main content

April showers bring some good news! Clarice NSF GRFP, Aaliyah and Jason BSA URAs!

The current COVID19 pandemic has greatly impacted the daily lives of the Specht lab members. But in these uncertain times we have some much needed good news to share!

Clarice Guan has been awarded a 2020 Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation! This NSF GRFP award will support Clarice in their endeavors to study the mysteries of phyllotaxy using the enigmatic genus Costus as a model lineage.

In addition, undergraduates Aaliyah Holliday and Jason Rose have both been named as recipients of a 2020 Botanical Society of America Undergraduate Research Awards! Aaliyah was funded for computational resources to expand her collection of inflorescence morphology across the Monocots in project code name: Monocot Empire. While Jason will being a new line of inquire exploring Liliales inflorescence morphology. You can see their names in lights on the BSA website here and read more about the Undergraduate Student Research Awards and their goals for promoting undergraduate excellence in research here.

Head shot of Aaliyah HolidayHeadshot of Jason RoseWe congratulate the awardees and are excited to follow their new discoveries!

Rosy and Jason win CALS research awards!

Rosy Glos and Jason Rose, two fabulous Specht lab undergrads, received undergrad awards last year! Jason was awarded the CALS Dextra Undergraduate Research Endowment Fund for his proposal titled, “Inflorescence Structure and Development in Liliales: What is the Ancestral State of the Liliales Order?”.

Rosy was award not one but TWO awards, she was also a recipient of the CALS Dextra Undergraduate Research Endowment Fund and an award from the CALS Alumni Association. These will fund her thesis research title, “Leaflet Structural Varian in Zamia (Cycadales: Zamiaceae): Does Anatomy Follow Phylogeny and Geography?” We look forward to the exciting results that come from their work! Congratulations!

Challenger Approaches: Heather Joins the Lab!

Heather Phillips first year graduate student in Plant biology officially joins the Specht lab! She did undergraduate at UC Davis followed by a Masters at the University of Bath wow! She is bringing a strong  developmental genetics background to the field of floral evolution and development. Specifically she is interested in floral fusion and the origin of novelty. She’ll be using a combination of genetics and statistical phylogenetics  to ask cool questions! She is currently working with Matthew Wilmann at the Plant Transformation facilities setting up Musa and Canna transformation. She is a great addition to the lab! Welcome Heather!

Specht Lab Graduate Students Participate in Diversity Preview Weekend

Diversity Preview Weekend is a three day event that brings students interested in EEB, Entomology and SIPS to the Cornell campus, to learn about graduate school before they apply. It specifically recruits students from under-represented groups who may not otherwise have resources available to learn about the graduate school application process. Attendance included financial support up to $600 to cover travel costs,  housing and food was provided.

So much variation in one species!

Visiting students get to know the Cornell campus and various graduate programs. Students tour facilities, meet with  graduate students and faculty, and learn about how to apply and obtain funding, among other things.  They also participate in a number of workshops to help prepare them for graduate school, like resume building and writing personal statements. Among the visiting students were some familiar faces such as Jocelyn Navarro, a Botanical Society of  America PLANTS student that Jesus and Chelsea met at Botany 2017.


Clarice’s interdepartmental presentation, with teammates Amelia-Juliette Demery (EEB) & Sam Willden (ENTO).

This event is completely planned and executed by graduate students, and all Specht lab graduate students pitched in. Jesus, Adriana, and Clarice helped with application review in the Fall. Adriana and Clarice participated in the personal statement and CV workshops. Adriana also gave a flash talk on her research of Calochortus population genetics and climatic niche modeling. Clarice presented on a super fun survey of the graduate student climate at Cornell, which included lots of pet pictures. Jesus presented a poster during the graduate student science fair. Rotating graduate students David and Heather helped behind the scenes to make sure everything ran smoothly, by walking students between events and setting up/breaking down.

Our aim in participating in Cornell’s Diversity Preview Weekend is for students to gain comfort and confidence in applying to graduate school. When Adriana participated in DPW 2017-2018, she met a prospective graduate student who applied to Plant Biology at Cornell, was accepted, and will be attending in the fall of 2019! We hope to see many of this year’s DPW attendees at graduate school interviews in the winter, and we’re excited to see them making strides toward their academic goals!

Jocelyn and Jesus talking about umbel-ivable things









Jesus attends the eFlower Summer School

The view from my room!

This post is a little late, but I attend eFlower Summer School at Oak Spring Garden in Virginia last Fall! A 10 day phylogenetic comparative methods school for botanist all around the world.

The school was led by Hervé Sauquet, Susana Magallón, and Jürg Schönenberger. We covered a wide variety of topics, including floral-character coding using the Proteus database, ancestral state reconstruction, divergence time estimation, state-dependent diversification analysis and paleobotany! In addition we had afternoon lectures from fantastic botanist like, Else Marie Friis  Stacey Smith , Peter Crane, and Specht lab alumni Laura Lagomarsino.

Not a plant but a bug!

The setting of the school the beautiful Oak Spring Gardens. Originally owned by Bunny (Rachel) Mellon a world renowned horticulturalist. Check out the view from my room!  Their horticulturalist had splendid taste, like this apple tree that oddly resembles a bifricating phylogeny!

A bifurcating apple tree.

While most of the day was spent coding floral characters  and learning comparative methods we had plenty of opportunities to explore the estate. We found Paw-Paws and neat  little monarch butterfly chrysalis hanging on old posts. But by far, the best part of the school was meeting amazing botanist from around the world. Participants represented seven nationalities, each with their own unique skill and enthusiasm for their own plant group. 10/10 highly recommend!


Fantastic group of young botanist!

The school was supported by the Oak Spring Garden Foundation and the Society for Systematic Biology.

Skip to toolbar