top of page


Starting the Conversation

Ambassadors are a vital part of our platform and guide the conversation within our groups. Their diversity and experience provide unique outlooks on common issues within academia. Through this they build the connections IS-MPMIConnect strives to create. Email us at if you wish to become an Ambassador yourself.

Dr. Ignacio Rubio Somoza


Ignacio Rubio-Somoza is a Molecular biologist trained as a plant developmental biologist with major interest on the interplay between development and immunity. His laboratory (MoRE Lab) at CRAG (Barcelona, Spain) investigates the co-evolution of RNA and hormone-mediated communication between plants and their associated microbes. Research at the MoRE lab focuses on different plant species such as Marchantia polymorpha and Arabidopsis thaliana and in their interaction with viruses, bacteria and fungi.

  • Twitter
pic bdebate.jpg

Dr. Carolina Mazo-Molina

Ambassador interested in Inclusivity in STEM  and Early Career Professionals

My name is Carolina Mazo-Molina, I am from Colombia, and I am a Postdoctoral Scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute at Ithaca, New York. I am a Microbiologist who likes plants and their pathogens, and I am interested in effector biology, plant NRLs, and plant-microbe interactions. 

5. Carolina Mazo.jpg

Dr. Cecilia Monclova

Ambassador interested in the Early Career Professionals Group

I am a plant pathologist working with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Texas Tech University. My research interests are focus on disease management practices, early pathogen detection, germplasm screening, and molecular identification of new, emerging pathogens. I work directly with stakeholders such as cotton and peanut farmers, industry representatives, research and extension personnel, and students.

DeQuantarius Speed

Ambassador interested in Inclusivity in STEM  

Hello! I’m DJ Speed, a 6th year doctoral student in the Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology Department at the University of Chicago. My research focuses on the induction of plant systemic immune responses in response to pathogen exposure.  I’m passionate about work involving equity and inclusivity in STEM, STEM advocacy and policy, STEM mentorship, and science communication.

DJ Speed_IS-MPMI Connect Ambassador.jpg
Dr Kamal Kumar Malukani.jpg

Dr. Kamal Malukani


During my PhD, I worked on the role of cell-wall and bacterial cell wall degrading enzymes in the induction of rice immune response during Rice-Xanthomonas interaction. Currently, I'm also exploring the role of rice functions involved in the tolerance against Rhizoctonia solani.

  • Twitter

Andrei Kiselev

Ambassador interested in the International Student Experience

I am from Russia and currently a Marie-Sklodowska Curie fellow working at LRSV laboratory at Toulouse University. My main scientific interest is the effector biology of phytopathogenic oomycete Aphanomyces euteiches. I’m keen on development of new techniques to characterize the mechanism of action of the effectors. I’ve been already an international student for 4 years, starting from my master’s program in Kiel, Germany.

  • Twitter

Goodluck Benjamin

Ambassador interested in Inclusivity in STEM and the Early Career Professionals group

I study plant biocontrol for pest and disease management and my research is currently focused on the tripartite molecular and metabolomic interaction of pea aphids, legumes and nitrogen fixing symbiosis.

  • Twitter

Professor Anne Matthysse

Ambassador interested in Inclusivity in STEM  and Work/Life Balance

My research is focused on initial interactions of pathogenic bacteria (Agrobacterium tumefaciens and E. coli O157) with plant surfaces.  We are currently interested in the role of glycoside hydrolases and of extracellular polysaccharides.

Edel Pérez-López (1).jpg

Professor Edel Pérez López

Ambassador interested in Inclusivity in STEM and Early Career Professionals

I am an Assistant Professor at the Department of Plant Sciences, University Laval, Quebec City, Canada. Currently my lab is working with molecular and applied aspects of the clubroot pathogen Plasmodiophora brassicae, the causal agent of a devastating disease affecting cruciferous crops worldwide. I'm originally from Cuba and a member of the LGBTQ2S+ community.

  • Twitter

Fayruza Lalany

Ambassador interested in Work/Life Balance

I am currently a PhD student at the Université de Sherbrooke, department of Biology. Fungal diseases result in devastating crop losses each year and the application of chemical fungicides has resulted in the development of more aggressive, fungicide resistant pathogens. Mycovirus-mediated hypovirulence is a phenomenon in which the virulence of fungal pathogens is reduced or completely lost, as a consequence of viral infection. As such, one of my research interests include the development of novel mycoviruses for use as biocontrol agents for field scale application.


Dr. Ben Daubech

Ambassador interested in Inclusivity in STEM  and Early Career Academia

Being particularly interested in plant-microorganism interactions, I did a PhD on nitrogen fixing symbiosis. During my PhD research, I identified a novel nodulation gene, called noeM, and also I focused on the spatio-temporal dynamics of fixing and non-fixing symbionts. I am currently looking for a postdoc position to extend my expertise on plant-microorganism interactions to a phytopathogenic system.

  • Twitter

Min Ya

Ambassador interested in Early Career Professionals and Work/Life Balance

I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. I’m interested in understanding the molecular basis and evolution of floral morphologies – what genes are needed to build a flower of a specific form and how do they change in different lineages. Particularly, I use RNA sequencing, genetic mapping, microscopy, tissue culture, histology, and gene silencing to study what genes build the beautiful Columbine flowers.

  • Twitter

Dr. Shyam Solanki

Ambassador interested in Early Career Professionals

My broad research interests are in understanding immunity pathways in plants for effective deployment in agriculturally relevant crops, majorly focusing on pathosystems: barley-wheat stem rust, barley- Fusarium head blight (FHB), and soybean- Sclerotinia stem rot.  I am particularly interested to understand the driving forces operating during the plant-pathogen interactions, leading to their continuous genome evolution and/or non-conventional mechanisms of host immunity. Apart from research, I am a big fan of sports, particularly cricket.

  • Twitter

Sonali Roy

Ambassador interested in Early Career Professionals and Inclusion and Diversity

  • Twitter

My research focuses on the genome-encoded small secreted peptides or ‘peptide hormones’ and their many roles in N-acquisition in legumes. I study how their signaling pathways interact with those of the classical hormones to modulate the rhizobia-legume interactions. Peptides likely provide a cheap, environmentally-friendly, non-GMO route to address current challenges of plant growth in nutrient-deprived soils.


Dr. Tania Toruño

Ambassador interested in Work/Life balance

I am originally from Nicaragua and have always been interested in the molecular interactions between plants and pathogens. My research interest focuses on the molecular mechanisms of pathogen perception and how plants activate their immune system. I am currently working towards the characterization of microbial perception in cultivated citrus and wild species, and how that impacts susceptibility to citrus greening (HLB) and other diseases.

Varusha Pillay Veerapen

Ambassador interested in Inclusivity in STEM 

I am a PhD Candidate under the supervision of Prof. Peter Moffett at the University of Sherbrooke. My main research interests lie in investigating RNA silencing mechanisms and its satellite components in plants. Inclusion and diversity, would mean promulgating a safe space for each and every individual to be able to express oneself and honoring his/her uniqueness and values. As Charles Darwin would bring to the table, “diversity is the key to success."

  • Twitter
Picture (1).jpeg
bottom of page