Former Lab Members



Dr. Wei-Wen Guo


Dr. Wei-Wen Guo

Research Technician


Benjamin Walker


Olivia Watson

Olivia Watson
Olivia Watson (seen on left)

Olivia Watson is a senior from Tabor City, NC. Olivia is a member of the NC State cheerleading team and has one younger sister that is a member of the NC State gymnastics team. Being raised by a family of agriculture educationalist it was highly likely that Olivia would pick this field. She is an agricultural education major with a minor in Horticulture and Leadership in Ag and Life Sciences. During the summer of 2016 Olivia interned under Diane Mays at NC State’s on campus greenhouses. This internship required exposure to the knowledge, skills and art required to maintain and operate a collection of tropical and arid plants utilized for educational purposes. The internship Olivia held in the summer of 2016 lead to her working in the greenhouse with the Blueberry Genetics & Genomics Research team. After working with the Blueberry Genetics & Genomics Research team for about a semester and a half she then moved on to focus on academics and athletics. In the summer of 2017 Olivia interned in the Biological Sciences Department greenhouses at Duke University. This was a paid internship where Olivia worked closely with the Teaching Collection Horticulturist and was also a supervisor of a college freshman volunteer student who also working in the greenhouses. Now Olivia is currently focusing on academics and preparing for student teaching in the spring.

Hailey McCleneghen (BS)

Hailey McCleneghen is helping to collect leaves for DNA extraction in a blueberry farm.Hailey McCleneghen is from Cary, NC; the big sister of to 2 siblings, who are twins. Since childhood Hailey has been fascinated by the biological world—always the girl climbing trees with binoculars, wading in the creek to find critters, and reading scientific picture-books. While these experiences sparked Hailey’s scientific inquiry, she has managed to kindle scientific interests such that they have become not only the heart of Hailey’s academic pursuits here at NC Statue University, but also a passion.

Now, Hailey’s educational journey has led to research with Blueberry Genetics & Genomics Research team. Though she is new to lab-oriented genetics and genomics study, Hailey has experience in agricultural and horticultural field research already. In summer 2013, she aided Dr. Thomas Carter and his graduate students of the NC Statue University Department of Crop Science (in conjunction with ARS/USDA). Then studied soybean breeding/genetics, with an emphasis on developing drought tolerant varieties. Ms. McCleneghen planted, organized supplies for field work, hoed, hand-weeded, and cross pollinated.

After summer 2013 until fall 2015, Hailey participated in research with Dr. Katie Jennings & her graduate students in the NC Statue University Department of Horticultural Science as well. Ms. McCleneghen did similar field work but tended more than just one crop (e.g. cucumbers, sweet potatoes, grapes, watermelons etc.). Further assisting with herbicide application (learning proper methods for disposal of chemical materials, too) and conducted research on the use of cover crops, tested newly marketed herbicides, and other methods for weed management.

For both positions, Hailey was entrusted with data collection on growth, yields, weights, available crop nutrients, environmental conditions etc., and even had the chance to record and analyze data for Dr. Jennings’ students. Ms. McCleneghen hopes that with these skills, will contribute to meaningful blueberry research, and also diversify her expertise of lab practice.

Kyungyoon Ra (Visiting Scholar)

Kyungyoon Ra is a visiting studentRa is from Seoul, Republic of Korea. She studies environmental horticulture for bachelor’s degree in University of Seoul. She is interested in to work in the lab to gain experience to become a researcher. She works in a plant pathology lab in Korea helping Fusarium of carnations research. During her stay in the Ashrafi’s lab she learned DNA extraction, PCR, and the use of several equipment such as Qubit, bioanalyzer, gel electrophoresis and was trained how to handle liquid Nitrogen and other materials.

A per her future goal, she is planning to get her Master’s degree and probably her PhD. She will conduct her research in Korean, national institute of Rural Development Administration. With accumulating more experience she would like to find a job in FAO and to contribute increasing agricultural productivity of the world.

“It was a great opportunity for me to  get a chance to work in Dr. Ashrafi’s lab”.

Ra left the lab in May 2016,


Former Lab Members

Ms. Margaret Schaber
Ms. Margaret Schaber

Blueberry Breeder

Emily is setting up PCR reactions.
Ms. Emily Riff

Undergraduate Intern