the  TEAM


Dr. Thomas Baldwin

Principal Investigator

My current research focuses on the underlying molecular mechanisms of host resistance of barley to Fusarium head blight (FHB) and spot blotch. Other barley diseases of interest include spot form net blotch, stripe rust, barley yellow dwarf and bacterial leaf streak. The Baldwin Lab explores the genetics of virulence for these diseases and applies advanced molecular analysis to aid in the discovery of novel resistance in barley. Our research aims to understand the function of RNA interference and how small RNA plays a role in host-pathogen interactions. In addition, Dr. Baldwin manages the North American Barley Evaluation Nursery (NABSEN) and the FHB and spot blotch disease screening nurseries in North Dakota. Dr. Baldwin is assisted in his barley research by Abraham Hangamaisho. 

Google Scholar Profile

Current Graduate Students


Abbeah Navasca 

Program: PhD in Plant Pathology

Co-advisor: Dr. Gary Secor (Plant Pathology)

I come from the island of Mindanao, the agricultural basket of the Philippines. Our province is known as the “Banana Capital of the Philippines” due to the massive production of Cavendish bananas for export. I grew up appreciating the impacts of the banana industry, which influenced me to pursue a career in agriculture. I earned my undergraduate and master's degrees in Plant Pathology at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. Before coming to Fargo, I worked at a private banana plantation (TADECO Inc), where I had the opportunity to spearhead the establishment of the first and only Plant Pathology Laboratory in the Philippines with ISO/IEC 17025:2017 Standards. I started my Ph.D. program in May 2021 and have been investigating the genomic and transcriptomic features, cross-infectivity, and quantification of Fusarium species in North Dakota crops. My research mainly focuses on the ability of Fusarium species to acquire and adapt genomic regions for virulence and host specificity, which makes them adaptable and difficult to control. We intend to improve disease management strategies by deeply understanding these biological mechanisms. The knowledge we will gain from these projects is fundamental to searching for potential solutions to manage the notorious Fusarium species in important crops of North Dakota. 


Diel Velasco

Program: PhD in Plant Pathology

Co-advisor: Dr. Zhaohui Liu (Plant Pathology)


Hailing from the central plains of the Philippines, where agriculture serves as the primary livelihood and rice stands as the main commodity, my early exposure to farming deepened my fascination with plants. This profound interest motivated me to pursue a degree in agriculture, with a specialization in Plant Pathology, from the University of the Philippines Los Baños in 2012. Upon completing my studies, I joined the Philippine Rice Research Institute, where I conducted biological control experiments against rice fungal diseases. Additionally, I performed extension work to educate farmers residing in marginalized areas about the importance of seed purity. In 2014, I joined the rice breeding team of Pioneer Hi-Bred (Corteva), where my primary responsibilities centered around phenotyping breeding lines and experimental hybrids to assess their resistance against Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, Magnaporthe oryzae, and Nilaparvata lugens under controlled greenhouse conditions, as well as hotspot environments. In May 2021, I embarked on an exciting new phase in my academic journey at NSDU, under the mentorship of Dr. Thomas Baldwin and Dr. Zhaohui Liu. Our research objectives revolve around comprehending the diversity of an emerging bacterial disease affecting barley, caused by Xanthomonas translucens pv. translucen, across major barley-growing states. Furthermore, we actively screen various barley lines and populations to identify potential sources of resistance against this disease. To accomplish our objectives, we employ whole-genome sequencing technologies to unravel genetic heterogeneity, leveraging multiple bioinformatic tools to conduct comprehensive genomic comparisons. Through our efforts, we aim to establish a solid foundation for unraveling the complexity of this pathogen and identifying effective strategies to combat this emerging disease.


Brooke Benz

Program: PhD in Plant Pathology

Co-advisor: Dr. Barney Geddes (Microbiological Sciences)

I am from North Dakota but grew up in Hayden, Colorado. Both of my parents are from North Dakota, so my freshman year of high school we moved back to North Dakota. As a child, I had always been interested in the sciences and this grew during my time in high school. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from North Dakota State University from 2014-2018 with Summa Cum Laude honors. After graduating in 2018, I worked at Aldevron, a biotechnology company in Fargo, ND. There, I was a GMP Biomanufacturing Operator. While at Aldevron, I gained experience in both science by making plasmid DNA to be used by researchers in human clinical trials, and leadership by leading teams and training new employees. In July 2021, I started my graduate career at NDSU in the Plant Pathology department with Dr. Thomas Baldiwn and Dr. Barney Geddes. My research is focused on the barley spike microbiome, and how the disease Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) may be affecting microbiome community composition. I am profiling the barley microbiome through 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing with the Illumina MiSeq. I have also started a bacterial barley spike culture collection to be used in the generation of synthetic communities to test mechanistic interactions occurring within the microbiome and between the microbiome and host plant. I will begin metagenomic sequencing as well to further understand taxa present and potential functions these taxa perform. We hope to understand how FHB may be affecting the barley microbiome and potentially identify protective community compositions or individual taxa that could be further tested as biocontrol organisms. 


Joan Acaso

Program: PhD in Microbiology 

Advisor: Dr. Barney Geddes (Microbiological Sciences)

Microbiology and plant pathology have been areas of keen interest for me, stemming from my background and career track in biological sciences. The University of the Philippines in Los Banos and Mindanao laid a strong foundation through my MSc and BSc degrees in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, and Biology respectively. During my MSc, I received awards such as the Lee Foundation Rice and Affiliate MS Thesis Research Scholarships at the International Rice Research Institute. My research dealt with both microorganisms and plants, aiming to develop innovative technologies for expediting the rice breeding program.

Following the completion of my MSc, I undertook genomics research and provided services pertaining to significant microorganisms such as ASFV, SARS-CoV2, Fusarium sp., Ralstonia sp., Schistosoma sp., etc. at the Philippine Genome Center Mindanao, University of the Philippines Mindanao. Seeking to deepen my understanding and make meaningful contributions in this field, I sought the guidance of Dr. Barney Geddes and Dr. Thomas Baldwin for the Ph.D. program in Microbiology at NDSU. My research will revolve around the barley microbiome- further unraveling the mechanisms underlying plant-microbe interactions, particularly the molecular and cellular processes that contribute to plant health and disease management. 

My personal goal is to enhance my scientific knowledge, technical expertise, collaborative skills, and advancing myself in this fields. I aspire to become a recognized researcher and educator in the realm of microbiology and plant pathology, actively contributing to these disciplines.


Glennrose Belen

Program: PhD in Plant Pathology

Co-advisor: Dr. Zhaohui Liu (Plant Pathology)

As a Plant Pathology enthusiast for more than 15 years, I'm now advancing my knowledge in this field by joining NDSU and Baldwin Laboratory to pursue a PhD degree in Plant Pathology. Prior to coming to NDSU, I was a research Scientist for 5 years and College Instructor for 4.5 years at East-West Seed Company and Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry, respectively. I received my BS in Agriculture (major in Plant Pathology) degree last 2008 and my MS in Plant Pathology (minor in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology) degree last 2013 at University of the Philippines Los Baños.


My research interests span in all the fields of Plant Pathology. However, I was highly involved in the molecular detection and gene sequencing of several plant viruses in the genus of Begomovirus, Potyvirus, Tobamovirus, Nanovirus, etc as I was in charge of the discovery of emerging virus diseases of tropical vegetables while I was working in East-West Seed Company. My previous research in bacterial pathogens focused on 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing of Ralstonia solanacearum and Candidatus Phytoplasma. In addition, I also worked on amplicon sequencing and DNA sequence analysis of ITS and TEF of Diaporthe sp., Fusarium sp. and Stagonosporopsis cucurbitacearum. 

My professional goal is to keep expanding my knowledge and technical skills in the field of Plant Pathology and to be able to give back to the marginalized communities in my country through research, instruction and extension.

Research Staff


Abraham Hangamaisho, MSc.

I am a graduate of Master of Science in plant science of South Dakota State University, currently working as a research specialist here at North Dakota State University, responsible for conducting and developing protocols for performing applied plant pathology research on important diseases found in barley in North Dakota, coordination, processing data and reports for the North American Scab Evaluation Nursery (NABSEN), produce data reports for other current runs and assist in dissemination of reports.

I am broadly interested in plant pathology and have experience from previous training and employment career. My masters of science research was on bacterial leaf streak of wheat management, focusing on influence of Nanomaterials and plant extracts on disease severity and bacterial growth, which is aimed at creating sustainable eco-friendly biopesticide control of wheat diseases.

My goal is to carry out crop production research and provide excellent extension services to farmers and the scientific research community by timely publication of scientific knowledge and possibly pave the way for new research projects in plant pathology. The continuous research will help in providing effective findings to solve the prevailing situation efficiently and thus ensuring sustainability of service provision to stakeholders. 

Therefore, my desire to pursue a career in plant pathology comes from my belief that continuous scientific research to gain a better understanding of the complex, interrelated aspects of phytopathology will increase productivity and sustainability.