Dr. Lauren Erland joined the Agriculture Department at the University of the Fraser Valley as Director of Berry Horticulture Research in the Summer of 2022. Dr. Erland has had a multi-disciplinary research journey and looks forward to bringing this experience to both her research and trainees. Dr. Erland completed her BSc & MSc research at UBC Okanagan in Dr. Soheil Mahmoud’s lab and joined Dr. Praveen Saxena’s lab at the UoGuelph for her PhD where she used quantum dot microscopy, analytical chemistry and plant tissue culture to discover the cellular localization and role of melatonin and serotonin in plants. Her postdoc work with Dr. Susan Murch led her back to fieldwork, which COVID-pivoted to a discovery of the possibilities of metabolomics and establishment of a new field of untargeted hormonomics. Her new lab, the Berry Environmental Resilience Research & Innovation (BERRI) Lab aims to improve sustainability and resilience of berry horticultural systems and ecosystems. The initial focus of the lab will be in characterizing environmental resilience and the role of phytohormone networks in Vaccinium species including cranberry, blueberry and huckleberry. Dr. Erland is passionate about effective science communication and building inclusive, equitable and collaborative environments where all ways of knowing are celebrated and science can thrive. You can keep in touch through social media @plantdrlauren or the BERRI Lab website www.berrilab.com
Dr. Thomas DeFalco joined Western University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology in September 2022. His research seeks to understand how plants perceive and respond to their environment at the molecular level. Tom started his ca- reer in the lab of Wayne Snedden at Queen’s University before completing his PhD with Keiko Yoshioka at the University of Toronto. Following his PhD, Tom joined the lab of Cyril Zipfel at The Sainsbury Laboratory (Norwich, UK), where he worked on receptor kinases in the context of plant immunity and was awarded a European Molecular Biol- ogy Organization (EMBO) Long-Term Fellowship. In 2018, Tom moved with the Zipfel group to the University of Zurich (Switzerland), where he was subsequently an NSERC PDF and led several projects characterizing the plant immune system. His new lab uses a variety of genetic, molecular, and biochemical approaches to interrogate receptor sig- nalling pathways, with a long-term goal of engineering improved crop resilience.
Dr. Yang Xu is an Assistant Professor in plant lipid biochemistry and biotechnology in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Guelph. She obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Food Science from Northwest A&F University (2006- 2010) and South China University of Technology (2010-2013), respectively, with a research focus on oil chemistry and oil enzymatic modification. She then pursued her PhD in Plant Science under the supervision of Dr. Randall Weselake at the University of Alberta (2013- 2017), where she expanded her research horizons and developed research interests in plant oil biotechnology. After completing her doctoral studies, she joined Dr. Guanqun Chen’s laboratory at the University of Alberta as a postdoctoral fellow (2017-2020) and worked on oil metabolism in microalgae. She later joined the laboratory of Dr. Christoph Benning at Michigan State University as a postdoctoral research associate (2020-2021). There, she extended her research focus to chloroplast membrane lipid metabolism in photosynthetic organisms. She was awarded the 2021 Carl Douglas Prize from the CSPB/SCBV. In Jan 2022, Dr. Xu started her own research lab at the University of Guelph. Her new research group focuses on studying acyl lipid assembly and trafficking in plants and developing bio- technology strategies to produce designer oils for food, fuel and renewable materials.
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