I have B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degree in Plant Pathology. For my Ph.D. research, I worked on population study of Leptosphaeria maculans, a fungus that cause blackleg disease in canola and screened for resistance sources against the disease. I identified sources of seedling resistance to this disease by screening a collection of Brassica juncea plant introduction. These resistant sources are being used for verification of adult plant resistance and will be used in canola breeding program for developing a mapping population and also for introgression of the trait into other canola cultivars. I also identified molecular markers that are significantly associated with resistance to this disease using Association Mapping. These markers could be utilized in marker assisted selection to enhance the selection process. I also utilized molecular markers for identification of population genetic structure of L. maculans. From this study we identified that there are different pathogenicity groups of L. maculans in commercial canola fields in ND and changes in population structure of this pathogen is one of the biggest factors for recent disease epidemic in the state. A manuscript from this research has been accepted for publication in Plant Disease. This experience has taught me essential pathology, modern molecular biology, genetic diversity, and breeding techniques and helped me to develop my organizational skills to plan and coordinate larger experiments.
For my Master’s thesis, I worked on epidemiological aspect of Sclerotinia Stem Rot disease in canola where I focused on the effect of soil texture and moisture on carpogenic germination of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum. For the objectives of my research, I conducted experiments in lab, growth chamber, and greenhouse. I confirmed the results obtained from these experiments in field over two consecutive years. The results from one of these researches have been published in Plant Disease (Nepal and del Rio, 2012). From these experiments I had enough experience to conduct researches independently in any of these environmental settings. In addition to these experiences, I acquired skills on Microsoft Office suite, SAS and other statistical analysis.
Currently, I am working as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on identification and characterization of necrotrophic effectors produced by Septoria musiva and its interaction on hybrid Poplar. I have also generated a standard protocol for transformation of S. musiva using polyethylene glycol. I successfully transformed this fungus with green fluorescent protein. This protocol will facilitate studies examining the infection biology of the pathogen, validation of candidate genes, and functional analysis of those genes. From this, I learned to conduct researches on host-pathogen interaction which is very important in understanding how a particular pathogen works to cause disease and this phenomenon can be exploited for disease management purposes.
Apart from experience on my own research for the degree, I was also involved in different research projects lead by my advisor. I had an opportunity to work on management and biological control of Sclerotinia Stem Rot in canola. I had experience in conducting fungicide sensitivity trials as well as screening the effectiveness of different compounds in combination as well as solo application for the control of disease. From these researches, I had good experience in handling and conducting researches that may involve hazardous chemical compounds. I am also interested in obtaining Field/Greenhouse Pesticide certification license.
In addition to having a strong research background, I also possess excellent interpersonal skills. While working and studying at North Dakota State University, I had opportunities to interact and work closely with diverse group of people. I mentored undergraduate research assistants and supervised hourly employees. I have learned strong leadership and organizational skills and also build strong working and personal relationships with people from different backgrounds and cultures. I also possess excellent oral and written communication skills as demonstrated by published manuscripts, thesis, dissertation, posters, and presentation at different APS meetings. I was awarded first place in graduate student oral competition organized by North Central APS division in Ames, Iowa 2009. Since then I have been actively participating in most of the APS annual and division meetings.