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Kathryn Schweri

Investigating the modular nature of a cyclic peptide synthetase required for production of ergot alkaloids
Mentor: Dr. Chrisopher Schardl

Kathryn's Beckman research proposal may be found at the bottom of this page

Kathryn is currently a PhD candidate at North Carolina State University in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. She is working in Dr. Eric Davis' lab on transforming plants for resistance to Root Knot Nematode, as well as vector design for the transformations.


Host-derived RNA targeted to a novel root-knot parasitism gene in tobacco

Use of plant host-derived RNAi targeted to parasitism genes to develop root-knot nematode-resistant tobacco

Investigating the modular nature of a cyclic peptide synthetase required fro production of ergot alkaloids

Professional Conference Presentations:

2011 - Graduate Research Symposium, North Carolina State University
2011 - Plant Pathological Society of North Carolina Meeting, North Carolina State University
2010 - American Phytopathological Society Meeting, St. Paul, MN
2009 - American Phytopathological Society Meeting, Portland, OR
2007 - American Phytopathological Society and Society of Nematology Meeting, San Diego, CA
2007 - AMSTEMM Research Colloquim, University of Kentucky
2007 - National Conference on Undergradaute Research, Dominican University, CA
2007 - Beckman Scholars Symposium, Irvine, CA
2006 - Agricultural Biotechnology Program Presentations, University of Kentucky

From Kathryn (Spring 2007):

I started at the University of Kentucky as an Agricultural Biotechnology major because I thought I wanted to be a vet. I decided to give research a try the summer after my freshman year at UK. I was looking for a summer job that would look good on my resume but I was also looking for a mentor for ABT 395 (Independent Research) to be completed during my junior year. My advisor, Dr. Glenn Collins, connected me with Dr. Christopher Schardl. I was immediately immersed in the research process, studying the phylogenetics of many different fungal isolates from various grass species.

During that summer I learned how to go from grass material to fungal culture, how to isolate fungal DNA, and how to run PCRs (polymerase chain reactions) and sequencing reactions of the DNA I had extracted. I found it rewarding that I could take a piece of grass and end up with a DNA sequence from the fungus inside, all on my own. Following that summer, I was sure that I wanted to go into research instead of becoming a vet because it was something at which I excelled and I really enjoyed the problem-solving nature of lab work. I continued working in Dr. Schardl’s lab during my sophomore year, and I became skilled at balancing work with school.

The summer between my sophomore and junior years I applied for an internship at Alltech, a biotechnology company, in order to gain a feel for the differences between research in a university setting and research in a corporate setting. There, my work involoved extracting mannoproteins from yeast cell wall material, under my supervisor, Colm Moran. I learned how to use scientific articles to further my research, because my project there involved perfecting methods of mannoprotein extraction and determining the best method of analyzing the extracted material using SDS-PAGE and Western Blots. I also learned how to write a detailed research paper for a company, and give a presentation about this research in a company setting. That experience was invaluable, and I have used what I learned about scientifiv writing many times since then.

I then went back to work in Dr. Schardl’s lab during my junior year, and decided to conduct my ABT 395 independence reserach there. I presented my research, “Testing for a Correlation Between the Size of the Host Genome and the Endophytic Fungal Species Inhabiting Various Species of Tall Fescue,” in the spring of my junior year.

I applied for the Beckman scholarship in the spring of my junior year, and was ecstatic when all the long hours working on my proposal paid off and I received the scholarship. This scholarship has allowed me to focus on my research without worrying about a second job. Along with the monetary benefits of the Beckman Scholarship, I was able to attend the Beckman Scholars Conference, where I saw presentations on cutting edge research in diverse fields including stem cell research and solar power. This conference was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, because it was attended by professors at the top of their fields from all over the nation, as well as other Beckman Scholars.

The Beckman Scholarship has provided the funds and support necessary for me to attend and present at several conferences other than the Beckman conferences. This spring I presented at NCUR (the National Conference on Undergraduate Research) at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA. This was also a great opportunity to meet other students interested in research and a great place for me to share my own research. I also presented at the Showcase of Undergraduate Scholars here at UK, a wonderful experience I recommend to any UK undergraduate researchers. This summer, along with the Beckman Scholars conference, I am excited to be able to attend and present at the American Phytopathological Society (APS) meeting. This meeting will be an excellent place for networking as well as a great place to learn about current events in my field, Plant Pathology. I don’t think that I would have been able to attend any of these conferences without the support of the Beckman Scholarship.

I graduated this spring from UK with a BS in Agricultural Biotechnology and a minor in Plant and Soil Science. I will be attending my first choice graduate school, North Carolina State University, in the fall in their Ph D program in Plant Pathology, one of the top Plant Pathology Programs in the nation. This summer, before I go to graduate school, I will be finishing up my Beckman research project in Dr. Schardl’s lab.

I think that undergraduate research is a wonderful experience that I would recommend to any student who is at all interested in research. I have loved working in both the university and corporate labs, and think that undergraduate research is a great learning opportunity. My research experience together with the Beckman Scholarship made it much easier to get into a top graduate school.

Research Proposal: