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Meet Our Students

AgBioFEWS Fellows are Ph.D. candidates across multidisciplinary fields of study. In addition to their primary graduate program, Fellows also earn a graduate minor in Genetic Engineering and Society and:

  • Embark on their studies embedded with NC farms, with later opportunities for international internships
  • Collaborate on an interdisciplinary cohort project
  • Take advanced interdisciplinary graduate courses and incorporate AgBioFEWS into thesis

Applications for the 2020 Fellowship Cohort will open in the fall of 2019. Please contact us if you would like information on other ways to participate in the program.

2019 PhD Cohort Fellows

photo of michelle bartolo

Michelle Bartolo


Michelle received a B.S. as an Applied Mathematics major with a concentration in Computer Science and a minor in Biology at Marist College in 2019. For her Honors Thesis at Marist College, she detected and localized marine mammals in the Indian Ocean using passive acoustic monitoring techniques, which minimizes potential harm to the animals while informing conservation efforts.

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She has also conducted research at Applied Biomathematics, modeling the movement of Western Corn Rootworm Beetles to gain a better understanding about resistance evolution of pests in cornfields. For her PhD she is interested in using mathematics and technology to predict and explain biological phenomena as it has the potential to save lives and change the world.

photo of carrie clower

Carrie Clower

Communication, Rhetoric and Digital Media

A Birmingham, Alabama native, Carrie Clower graduated from The University of Alabama in 2017 with a B.A. degree in Political Science and Communication Studies, then earned her M.A. in Communication Studies the following year.

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As a doctoral student, she plans to continue researching perceptions of scientific topics but intends to employ quantitative methods to do so, which she sees as best equipping researchers with data that is portable and flexible for engaging people in important scientific discussions catered to their specific audiences.

photo of allison coomberAllison Coomber

Functional Genomics

Allison received her B.S. in Plant Science with a focus in plant breeding from Cornell University in 2018. At Cornell she conducted research in Dr. Gary Bergstrom’s plant pathology lab, culminating in the thesis “Mixed species intercropping mitigates plant disease in organic forage systems.”

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She also had the opportunity to architect a new program for mentoring incoming students. During her last two years at Cornell she mentored ten incoming students through weekly meetings and discussions. She thrives in environments that foster innovation and has the drive and patience necessary for academic research in the fields of plant science, genetics, and genomics. In the future, she hopes to work in industry as a plant breeder.

photo of deshae dillard

DeShae Dillard


DeShae received his B.A. in Biology with a Research Concentration from Gonzaga University. Utilizing his background in secondary education, he has organized numerous outreach events with the intent of generating interest in local biodiversity for youth residing in surrounding low-income public schools.
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Outside of community interests, he has maintained a strong focus in academia and continues to seek a wide variety of experiences to further diversify his abilities to ensure success within the field of integrated pest management. For his graduate studies, he sees his background as playing a vital role in extension and finding a way to close the rift that exists between the scientific community and the general public.

Photo of Dalton GeorgeDalton George

Forestry and Environmental Resources

Currently Dalton is a PhD student at North Carolina State University in the Forestry and Environmental Resources department, and an affiliate of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center. He has a B.S. from Michigan State University, where he majored in Molecular Biology and Minored in the History, Philosophy, and Sociology of Science. He earned his M.S. at Drexel University in Science, Technology, and Society Studies, with focused research interests on the social and political dimensions of gene editing.

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His interdisciplinary experiences have focused on the Human and Social Dimensions of knowledge production, specifically in areas of genomics and genetic engineering. At NC State, he is pursuing research interests in the realm of Emerging Technology Governance, specifically in areas of Forest and Agricultural biotechnology.

photo of eli hornsteinEli Hornstein

Plant Biology

Eli was a Robertson Scholar as an undergraduate, which allowed simultaneous enrollment at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill. He focused on ecology and evolution at Duke, while graduating with a B.A. in linguistics at UNC. He also has a credential in business via Harvard Business School online.

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Eli is interested in the idea that biotechnology can be used to face otherwise insurmountable problems of conservation and sustainability. He is a 3rd year Plant Biology PhD student at the Sederoff lab at NC State, where his research tries to insert genes into plants of the mustard family that will allow them to form new symbiotic associations with fungi called mycorrhizae. Re-engineering this relationship therefore has potential to reduce the amount of fertilizer and water needed for agriculture, without incentivizing overuse of resources.

photo of nassib mugwanya Nassib Mugwanya

Agricultural and Extension Education

Nassib holds a B.S. in Agriculture and a M.S. in Agricultural Extension Education from Makerere University-Uganda. For the past five years he has been working at the National Crops Resources Research Institute in Uganda, where he spent most of his time in educational and outreach engagements on biotechnology especially among smallholder farmers.

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As a Doctoral student at NC State University, he is interested in exploring how scientists and extension workers can communicate appropriately and effectively to non-expert audiences on complex and controversial agricultural technologies, such as genetic engineering.

photo of daniella pezziniDaniela Pezzini


Daniela holds a B.A. in Agronomy from the Federal University of Santa Maria in Brazil and an M.S. from the University of Minnesota, where she conducted a 9-state multi-year project to address important questions related to the increased threat posed by stink bugs to soybean farmers.

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Specifically, her M.S. thesis aimed to characterize the stink bug community and develop a sequential sampling plan for stink bugs in soybean in the North Central Region of the U.S. For her PhD, she wants to focus her studies on insect resistant management (IRM) and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to solve complex issues related to insect pest management, which would complement the skills she has acquired during her earlier degrees. As a farmer’s daughter and a first generation college student, she aims to bring key observations of family farming and the sociology of agriculture.

photo of casey rozowskiCasey Rozowski

Agriculture and Resource Economics

Casey has undergraduate degrees in Mathematics and English Literature as well as Master’s degrees in Applied Economics and Financial Mathematics. Casey is a second-year doctoral student in Natural Resource Economics at NC State University.

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His primary research interests include energy economics, natural resource economics, and econometrics. Within energy economics, Casey is currently researching the health effects from air pollutant exposure and the role of renewable energy and abatement technologies. In natural resource economics, Casey is currently applying partially observable Markov decision processes in adaptive harvest management, applying reinforcement learning to reserve site selection, and he is also performing joint research with the U.S. Geological Survey on adaptive management programs for endangered species.

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