Cullen’s projected graduation is May of 2024
Cullen Dixon is a Translational Plant Science PhD Candidate in Dr. Andrea Gschwend’s Grapevine Genetics Laboratory here in the department of Horticulture and Crop Science. Cullen’s work aims to elucidate the genetic factors underpinning an observed increased insect-herbivory resistance in grapevine native to the northern/northeastern U.S. and southern Canada (Vitis labrusca) compared to European grapevine (Vitis vinifera). His work is very multi-faceted, providing a broad overview of resistance, succeeded by studies of specific genes/gene families of interest. Insect-herbivory observational studies, in silico genome investigations, phylogenetics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, and gene editing approaches will be employed to capture a wholistic understanding of the insect-herbivory defense response between species. The ultimate goal of Cullen’s work is to provide breeders and geneticists target genes to introgress or engineer into existing crop plants to decrease insect predation and increase yields.
Cullen is a student in the Translational Plant Sciences (TPS) PhD program and is housed in the department of Horticulture and Crop Science (HCS). Cullen chose the TPS program due to its prestigious ranking nationally in the field of plant genetics and its highly unique programmatic structure requiring very little coursework and a strong focus on research, mentorship, outreach, education through workshops and seminars, and the ability to undertake an internship in industry during his studies. Cullen found an exciting opportunity to work under Dr. Andrea Gschwend studying in the understudied field of grapevine genetics and was pleased to join the department to carry out this research. He enjoys his involvement in the HCS department and regularly takes place in departmental mixers, seminars, and symposiums.