Blueberry Breeding Team
Photo left: Blueberry Breeding Team from furthest to nearest. Far: James Ballington; Middle: Terry Bland; Near: Tessa Ruth Brydon-Yelton (Tessa left the group in June 2016 to pursue her career in Yosemite National Park)
Dr. Jim Ballington
Information coming soon…
Information coming soon…
I was born February of 1982 and grew up in High Point, North Carolina. I attended Westchester Academy for the majority of my Middle and High School years, enjoying the most my studies in Spanish, Biology, English and Art. In 2000, I entered NCSU as an undergraduate, majoring in Biochemistry and Biological Sciences. After graduating in 2004, I job hopped as I tried to make money while discovering where my career path lay. I’d always thought I would enjoy working with plants, but the opportunity never arose—I worked with mosquitoes, termites, ants, and other insects while at BASF, then with human chromosomes at Lab Corp, and finally with mice and cytokines at the UNC Thurston Arthritis Research Center. I finally decided that if I wanted to pursue plants as a career, I would have to do it directly, and so applied for entry for the NCSU graduate program in Plant Breeding. Happily, it seemed that several big agribusinesses had just completed a deal with NCSU to help fund graduate students through plant breeding programs, so I was able to obtain a Monsanto Fellowship to begin Fall 2008.
I completed my PhD in plant genomics form the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I am interested in molecular biology, genomics and bioinformatics as my primary area of research. With the advancement in sequencing technologies, genomic data are growing everyday by leaps and bounds. Obtaining meaningful information out of such vast amount of data pose a major challenge in present day biological research. I specialize in using various bioinformatics and computational tools to analyze such large amount of genomic data.
Blueberry, Vaccinium sp., is a highly valuable fruit crop in many parts of the world. It is gaining even more popularity, because of high pigment content, as a source of biological antioxidant. The highly marketable blueberries crop belongs to the northern high bush variety, which requires moderate amount of chilling to initiate flowering. However, repeated frosting can be devastating for crop production as the subsequent frostings tends to damage the previously initiated flower buds. Another setback to the commercial blueberry farming is difficulty of mechanical harvesting of the ripe berries. Since blueberries are non-climectaric fruit, pre-ripe harvesting is not an option. Mechanical harvesting of the ripe fruit can cause significant damage to the fruit quality. I am using various molecular and genomic tools to understand the flowering time and fruit quality of the cultivated blueberries. I use next generation sequencing technologies including Illumina and PacBio to obtain the genomic and transciptomic sequences from wild and cultivated blueberries. Using those sequences I hope to identify the genes that regulates the economically important traits in different cultivars of blueberries. Thus identified genes can be used to further improve the crop quality by molecular and traditional breeding strategies.
I’m from Durham, NC, and as the eldest child of two, I always had a lot of responsibility for my younger sister and myself growing up, so I learned at an early age that hard work, independence, and time management were important life skills. My work experience includes a broad range of molecular applications, phylogenetic and bioinformatics software use, and even some field-based research. I also have a lot of different work experience that has helped me to develop soft skills like inventory management and people skills. I worked for Dr. Xiang in the plant biology department for the entire year of 2014, including the summer semester. I developed strong skills in CTAB DNA extraction, PCR use/troubleshooting and sequencing reactions. I performed flow cytometry on 33 different species in the Dogwood genus, and used Mesquite and RASP software programs for analyzing and interpreting the data from flow cytometry.
Horticulture allows Elisheba to blend her pursuit for a scientific career with her ever-burgeoning fascination with the inner workings of plants. As a child, plants were her favorite thing to
study and experiment with. She learned in a middle-school science fair that plants are not sessile, boring creatures, bending aimlessly in the wind, obedient only to the whims of sunlight and water. Instead, she learned that they were meticulously crafted entities that possessed deeper self-regulation than her middle-school classes let on. As she got older, her fascination did not diminish. As a sophomore Biology/Pre-Medical student in Spelman College, Elisheba took an elective in Botany and became even more intrigued with the intricacies of plant life. This elective incorporated trips to sustainable herbal gardens during the year. It was here were she had her first exposure to the maintenance, expertise, and responsibility that horticulturalists require to have a persistent impact on their communities. After this experience, she immediately began maintaining vegetable & herb gardens at home, work, and in my surrounding communities.
My name is Lauren Redpath. I was born here in Raleigh but have moved around a lot since highschool. I went to College of Charleston for my undergrad in Biology and French. From there I moved to a small town called Yeongwol in South Korea and taught English for a year. I then moved to Kyoto, Japan for 4 years where I again taught English in Osaka. I love trying new food and exploring new cultures and travel every chance I can get; I have been to over 40 countries! I also love nature and being outdoors, camping and hiking are two of my favorite activities. And as cliché as it sounds, I really like learning. After I graduated undergrad, I continued taking various courses and tests to keep my mind active. I returned to the U.S. to attend the University of Georgia, where I studied cold hardiness in blueberry floral buds and obtained my masters in August 2017. Thus, it is quite natural you find me here in Ashrafi lab! I hope someday to be just as good a mentor to others as I walk them through laboratory experiences.
David Keck is a Georgia-born N.C.S.U. student pursuing a degree in Agricultural Science. The younger of two siblings, David grew up surrounded by rural, undeveloped land which sparked his interest in the wonder of the natural world and the inner workings of plants. This interest has brought him from a small town in central Georgia to Raleigh in pursuit of his interests.
Having experience in managed Pinus taeda populations and plant propagation techniques including grafting, cuttings, and nurse rootings, David was ready to broaden his horizons from the field to the laboratory.
Now, David’s educational career has led him to blueberry genomics –currently developing practical skills in aseptic techniques, tissue culture, and genomic data analysis. He hopes that between his past experience and new skills, that he may contribute to the research that Dr. Ashrafi is spearheading in the department.
As an Eagle Scout, have had an interest in the outdoors since I was a little kid! This interest lead me to Ashrafi’s Lab, but it’s been quite an ordeal. I was born and raised in Raleigh, close to NCSU, and I always knew that I wanted to go here. I enjoy hiking, biking, longboarding, and playing video games, but it is my passion to learn and to work outdoors that brought me here.
I’m a Horticulture major, and as such, I want to apply my knowledge of the growth of plants, culturing, and different lab techniques, to Ashrafi’s lab, and develop various skills to contribute to the research!
Adjunct Graduate Students
Information coming soon…