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Priyanka Gangwar

Postdoc Researcher (2023.4 - present)

I am a plant biotechnologist whose interests are in the area of plant-pathogen interactions. During my undergraduate studies, I pursued a major in Life Science, where I gained a comprehensive understanding of the intricate processes underlying living organisms. Building upon this foundation, I pursued a postgraduate major in Biotechnology, immersing myself in the advanced techniques used to manipulate biological systems. Driven by a fascination with plants, I chose to specialize in Plant biotechnology for my doctorate. My research goal is to enhance crop health and yields by investigating plant-microbe interactions, focusing on the dynamics of soilborne fungal pathogens like Fusarium and their virulence, as well as their interactions with tobacco host plants. Beyond academia, I find joy in exploring different cultures and landscapes through traveling and immersing myself in the universal language of music. My hometown, Kanpur, is a large industrial city in the central-western part of the state of Uttar Pradesh, India, where my passion for science and exploration first took root.

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Kamal Chhetri

Ph.D. student (2023.8 - present)

I was born and raised in the western part of Nepal. My passion for plants and agriculture developed early in my childhood while growing up on a family-owned farm. This upbringing fueled my curiosity and ultimately led me to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science, Tribhuvan University. After completing my Master of Science in Biotechnology at West Virginia State University in 2023, I started my Ph.D. journey under the guidance of Dr. Zeng at Virginia Tech. My research interests lie in exploring innovative solutions to crop disease and sustainability. I find solace in the great outdoors. I love camping, exploring new places, and immersing myself in various genres of music. 


Ayodeji Bello

Presidential Postdoc Fellow (2023.9 - present)

As a microbial ecologist, I am interested in soil-plant-microbe interactions and their impact on ecosystem resilience. I did my PhD at Northeast Agricultural University (NEAU), Harbin, China, my MSc at the University of Ibadan and my BSc at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, both in Nigeria and majored in Agronomy (Soil Science). During my time at Zeng Lab, I am investigating how management practices alter soil core microbiota and their association with crop health and soilborne diseases.

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Jiayu Dong

Ph.D. student (2024.8 - present)

I was born and grew up in Hebei Province, which is in the north of China. I pursued my undergraduate degree in the plant protection major at China Agricultural University. After graduation, I chose to continue my study in plant pathology at the same school and gained my master's degree. In August 2024, I started my Ph.D. program at Virginia Tech, with a focus on tobacco target spot in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences. Beyond academic pursuits, I enjoy traveling, reading, and also derive pleasure from cooking and baking and enjoying delicious cuisine.


Emma Raimondi

M.S. student (2024.8 - present)

Lab Alumni
Caroline Taylor, Virginia Tech, Undergraduate research assistant, Summer 2023
Sarah Hingst, Virginia Tech, Undergraduate research assistant, Summer 2023
Xueming Xu, Virginia Tech, Undergraduate research assistant, Summer & Fall 2023

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