Wednesday, November 20, 2019 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Graduate Student Lightning Talks

Integrated Learning Center Room S240

Come learn about what some of our Graduate students are working on, followed by conversation and light refreshments at the UClub.


Mariela Garcia Arredondo
PhD Candidate, Department of Environmental Conservation
Advised by Marco Keiluweit
@phdtrekkers (Twitter, Instagram)

Mariela’s current work focuses on understanding how roots drive biogeochemical processes that impact mineral-organic associations in soils and therefore the metal-carbon cycling. Mariela’s interests include international development, environmental policy, and bridging the gap between environmental research in soil biogeochemistry and its application in sustainable development to help combat pollution, climate change and the overall loss of our world's ultimate natural resource, soil. Mariela graduated from Cornell University (B.S.) and received her masters at UMass (M.S.), Mariela is from Fort Worth, TX and enjoys hiking, swimming, dancing and cooking in her spare time.

Emily Bechtold
PhD Candidate, Department of Microbiology
Advised by Klaus Nüsslein 

Emily is a 5th year Microbiology PhD student in Dr. Klaus Nüsslein’s lab. Her work focuses on understanding microbial communities found on plant leaves, how these communities change under climate stress, and if we can utilize these communities to promote plant health and growth. As a graduate student, she has been involved in the Microbiology Graduate Student Group, Graduate Student Senate, and BRiDGE.  Before coming to UMass, Emily received her BS in biology from Bates College and gained diverse work experience, including biotech as well as field work studying primates in Tanzania and Ethiopia.

Alicia Coleman
PhD Candidate, Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
Advised by Theodore Eisenman and Robert L. Ryan 

Alicia is a fourth year PhD student in LARP studying the role of local residents in urban tree planting programs. Her goal for the research is to better understand how internal attitudes and motivations influence the long-term survival of urban trees. Prior to doctoral studies, Alicia completed two years of AmeriCorps service at a regional land trust in eastern Massachusetts, where she focused on conservation planning and prioritization, landowner outreach, and collaborative projects with local land trusts and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Alicia holds a Master of Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, a B.S. in Behavioral Science from Wilmington University, and a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems from the Pennsylvania State University.

Anahita Khosravi
PhD Candidate, Plant and Soil Sciences
Advised by Xing-Hashemi

Corien (J.F.) Kuiper
PhD Candidate, Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
Advised by Elisabeth Hamin Infield 

Corien is a second year PhD student in Regional Planning at the department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, UMass Amherst. She holds a bachelors’ degree in Human Geography and a master’s degree in Planning from the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. Before coming to the U.S., Corien worked as a planning professional in both the private and public sector. As a consultant she worked on many urban and regional development projects throughout the Netherlands. In her work for the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, she specialized in water management in the context of climate change and adaptation strategies. For her doctoral research she investigates planning for climate change adaptation within the U.S. and Dutch context.

Mary Richards
MS Candidate, Departments of Geosciences & Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
Advised by Piper Gaubatz and Mark Hamin 

Mary is a Master’s student pursuing coursework focused on urban transportation networks, climate change, and regional planning. She is interested in researching the spatial relationships between the physical, social, and natural environment to better understand urban mobility, accessibility, and sustainability challenges. Prior to graduate school, she studied Environmental Chemistry at Middlebury College where she researched the impacts of environmental toxins on public health. Her interdisciplinary research interests incorporate many of her previous experiences including biomedical research, environmental conservation, transportation planning, and an AmeriCorps term with Habitat for Humanity.

Shaina Sadai
PhD Candidate, Department of Geosciences
Advised by Alan Condron and Rob DeConto
@scienceshaina (Twitter, Instagram) 

Shaina’s research focuses on using global climate modeling to determine how the climate system as a whole might respond to changes in the Antarctic Ice Sheet (AIS). She is also interested in the role of agriculture in climate mitigation and critical political theory in relation to climate.

Melissa Shinfuku
PhD Candidate, Department of Microbiology
Advised by Kristen DeAngelis 

Melissa Shinfuku is a third year PhD student in the Microbiology department in the DeAngelis Lab. She is interested in microbial ecology, carbon cycling, and microbe-mineral interactions in soils. Her current research focuses on how dead microbes and their cellular products contribute to soil organic matter. Melissa grew interested in soils during her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley and worked in various labs studying drought tolerance in plants, Pierce’s Disease in wine grapes, and soil microbial ecology. She is a co-chair of the Pioneer Valley Microbiology Symposium and is the current president of the Microbiology Graduate Student Group. When she is not in lab, she enjoys running, doing science outreach, and baking.

Alexa Smychkovich
PhD Candidate, Plant and Soil Sciences
Advised by Masoud Hashemi 

Alexa Smychkovich is a second year PhD student in the Plant and Soil Sciences Program.  She grew up in New England and worked on farms in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire before obtaining her B.S. in Plant, Soil and Insect Sciences from UMass Amherst. She is interested broadly in regenerative agriculture and vegetable production and specifically in cover cropping systems, soil health, and season extension.  Her research is focused on enhancing the sustainability of garlic production in the northeast through the use of cover crops. In her spare time, she likes to cook, read, and canoe camp on rivers and the ocean.

Naomi Valentine
MS Candidate, Sustainability Science
Advised by Christine Hatch 

Naomi Valentine returned for her Masters in Sustainability Science at UMass after four years of practicing ecological restoration with a private environmental consulting firm, SWCA Environmental Consultants. Through her coursework and research, Naomi is exploring innovative ways to enhance ecological resilience in her work at SWCA Environmental Consultants. Recently, Naomi has been working with Christine Hatch, from the UMass Amherst Geoscience Department, and Alex Hackman, from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, on identifying more accurate measures of success for wetland restoration projects than are currently practiced. This project can help influence future wetland restoration planning practices, regulatory requirements, and post-restoration monitoring protocols.