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NIMFFAB Students

Portrait view

Lizbeth Pena Zuniga
  • Biotechnology Engineer,
    University of Army Forces (ESPE) in Ecuador
  • PhD student in Plant Pathology

Lizbeth is a first-year Ph.D. student. Under the guidance of Dr. Ochoa Corona. Her research is focus in using and developing new detection methods for plant viral pathosystems. She is interested in plant viral interactions and the available detection technologies for virus monitoring in microbial forensics, biosecurity, epidemiological studies in agriculture. Currently, she is using a deep parallel sequencing and metagenomic data analysis platform, EDNA (E-probe Diagnostic Nucleic acid Analysis) that successfully detects plant virus in sequenced metagenomes. She developed a crop base detection for: cucurbits, rose, soil and water viromes. Before being part of NIMFFAB, Liz worked in viral gene expression analysis at the Entomology and Plant Pathology department at OSU as a Research Scholar, where she collaborated in a project for studying stress metabolic pathways during plant viral infection. Liz graduated from the University of Army Forces (ESPE) in Ecuador her home country, as a Biotechnology engineer. In her spare time, she enjoys running, working out, outdoors and enjoying nature.




Ishtar Silva Lara

Ishtar Silva Lara
  • BS in Veterinary Medicine and Animal Husbandry, Autonomous and Popular University of the State of Puebla (UPAEP), Mexico
  • MS in Agribusiness, UPAEP, Mexico
  • MS in Animal Science, Oklahoma State university, U.S.A
  • PhD student in Animal Science, Oklahoma State University (expected graduation - Fall 2020), U.S.A.

Originally from Mexico, I received my Bachelors and Masters degree from UPAEP. I then pursued my MS in Animal Science with focus area in swine nutrition at Oklahoma State University. After graduating, I worked full time in the Swine Research and Education Center at Oklahoma State University as Research Assistant for a year until beginning my PhD at the current University. My research is focused on health status improvements in swine through mineral supplementation. My main work has been with Zinc supplementation for improvement the immune status of nursery pigs. I joined the NIMFFAB team in the Spring of 2019 with the goal of developing bioinformatic tools for the assessment of gut microbiota behavior and its relationship with the health status and performance of the nursery pigs fed zinc supplemented diets.




Branden Lanier

Braden Lanier
  • BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

I have been a Stillwater resident since 2008 and I’ve truly enjoyed growing up in this community. I graduated from Oklahoma State in 2019 with a Bachelor’s of Science in biochemistry and molecular biology. I have been researching the genus of bacteria Elizabethkingia as an undergraduate and continue that research into my Master’s. Currently, I am developing Eprobes for the Elizabethkingia as well as investigating the virulence factors associated with these bacteria. My hobbies include hiking, bicycling, writing, and playing violin and accordion.





Nicolas Javier Lopez Guerra
  • BS in Biotechnology Engineer

I was born in Ecuador in November 01st, 1994. My family core is composed by my father from Quito, Ecuador and my mother from Viña del Mar, Chile; I also have a sister of 12 years old. In my bachelor, I graduated as a biotechnology engineer in Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas ESPE from Ecuador, where I had the opportunity to be deeply involved in the development of the first Synthetic Biology group of Ecuador as a founding member. In this group, I learnt some DNA assembly techniques in wet lab and how to design synthetic biology circuits in silico. From this experience, I had the opportunity to work in a cellulose production coupled with the cytokine BMP2 through the Cellulose Binding Domain, with which we achieved a silver medal in the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition (IGEM 2018). Currently, I am enrolled in the Food Science master program and I am helping Dr. Ma in her research as a GRA.




standing by a lab window

Christian Ayala Ortiz
  • MS Student Entomology and Plant Pathology, Okalhoma State University (expected graduation – July 2019)
  • BS Biotechnology Engineering, Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas-ESPE

For my Master's degree I am working in the comparative genomics of Deltocephaline leafhoppers trying to identify some vector competence-related genes. Mr. Ayala is on a fellowship supported by DITRA.




Andrea Salazar

Andrea Salazar
  • MS Student Entomology and Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University (Excepted graduation- July 2020).
  • BS Biotechnology Engineering, Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas- ESPE.

I am from Ecuador; I received my Bachelor’s degree from Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas- ESPE, Quito – Ecuador. I performed my undergraduate research and thesis project in NIMFFAB - OSU developing a rapid and sensitive Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) for the detection of Rose rosette virus (RRV). Currently, my master’s research focuses on developing a field adaptable Rapid Anaplasma Detection (RAD) kit for detecting three tick-transmitted Anaplasma species infecting livestock.





Sai Saranyan

Bio here




Huizi Wang

Huizi Wang
  • MS University of Missouri
  • PhD Student in Statistics, Oklahoma State University

Huizi Wang is a Research Assistant at NIMMFAB. She graduated from University of Missouri, with master degrees in Statistics in 2017. After graduation she is pursuing her PhD degrees at Oklahoma State University department of Statistics. She is currently working on Statistical Validation of Next Gen Sequencing and In Silico diagnostics. She has a special interest in High Dimensional Data Analysis.







Marie sitting in lab

Gretta “Marie” Sharp
  • BS in Bioenvironmental Sciences and Agronomy from Texas A&M
  • MS in Biology from University of Texas, Tyler
  • PhD Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University 
    (expected graduation – Spring 2019)

In my doctoral work, I strive to develop new tools for human foodborne pathogen detection using bioinformatics. My main goal is to make bioinformatic methods relevant for forensic and diagnostic applications and to bring these methods into the field. Ms. Sharp is a National Needs Fellow with NIMFFAB.



Rydzak sitting by a computer in a lab

Patrick Rydzak
  • BS in Marine Biology from Texas A&M
  • MS in Biology from the University of Texas

Patrick Rydzak is a Doctoral Student and Graduate Research Assistant in Plant Pathology and a National Needs Fellow who joined the NIMFFAB team in the summer of 2016. Originally from Texas, Patrick received a Bachelors of Science Degree in Marine Biology from Texas A&M Galveston and a Masters of Science Degree in Biology from the University of Texas at Tyler. After graduating with his Masters degree, Patrick worked full time as a Extension Demonstration Technician at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Center in Overton, Texas until beginning his Ph.D. at Oklahoma State University. Patrick’s current research interests include the development of novel diagnostic tools for the detection and discrimination of pathogens of cereal crops and RNA silencing of viruses. In the future, Patrick hopes to work for a government agency and peruse a career in agricultural biosecurity.



Portrait view

Sara Wallace
  • MS student at OSU working on diagnostics of diseases of grapevines.

A native of Virginia, Ms. Wallace was and Paramedic. In 2012, she moved to OK where she shifted her focus to working in horticultural farms as a groundskeeper and gardener. Ms. Wallace is a National Needs Fellow with NIMFFAB



Portrait view

Santiago Molina Cardenas
  • MS Student Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University (expected graduation – July 2018)
  • BS Biotechnology Engineering, Universidad de las Fuerzas Armadas-ESPE

My research is focused in the development of rapid and quantitative nucleic acid amplification methods for detection of foodborne pathogens. Specifically, I am working with the third generation of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), droplet digital PCR, and with the field deployable method, loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP). The model pathogens for my studies are Listeria monocytogenes and generic Escherichia coli. In addition to the novel nucleic acid amplification methods, my laboratory work allowed me to become familiar with standard microbiology methods stablished by the FDA, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and EPA.