NC State
Fikret Isik

We owe our success to our graduate students. 

F. Isik 

Current PhD students 


April Meeks
I am a Phd student working in the Cooperative Tree Improvement Program at North Carolina State University. My research focuses on fusiform rust disease resistance in managed loblolly pine plantations. Specifically, I am interested in the level of additive and non-additive genetic effects in disease resistance in Pinus taeda and virulent variation in the pathogen populations. The fusiform rust disease caused by the native fungus Cronartium quercuum f. sp fusiforme. It causes multi million dollars annually in the managed pine plantations.



Khushi Goda
Hello! I am PhD genetics graduate from Singapore. I am a Computational Biologist and I love working on algorithmic solutions for biological problems. My background is Bachelors (Honours) Degree in Computational Biology ( a combined degree for Computer Science and Life Science) from National University of Singapore. Currently I am working on developing better algorithms to cater for inbreeding and increase genetic gain in conifers. When you don’t find me furiously typing away on my computer, I’ll be travelling, dancing and trekking!


Trevor Walker
I study the quantitative genetics of forest trees for a variety of economically important traits. I am especially interested in the use of molecular markers to enhance tree breeding. One of the central questions in tree breeding is within family selection. I am interested in using large number of markers for efficient within family selection. I am also the breeding manager for the Cooperative Tree Improvement Program, managing a complex and large breeding program.


Nasir Muhammed Shalizi
My research focuses on genetic analysis of experimental data, that included prediction of breeding values using linear mixed models and SNP markers to predict the phenotypes. In one of my manuscripts I explored factor analytic linear mixed models to predict the breeding values of large number of clones (about 2300) coming from 53 full-sib families.



Eddie Lauer
I am interested in delivering best-in-class breeding solutions for the 21st century through integrating classical quantitative genetics with modern genomic sciences. I am analyzing large multi-environmental trial datasets to predict the breeding values of candidates in the loblolly pine program. These analyses will be facilitated by the eventual integration of the 50K SNP chip for loblolly pine, which will be used for developing genomic prediction models. In a parallel project, I am conducting a controlled screening assay utilizing RNAseq to identify large-effect polymorphisms which can be used for predicting fusiform rust resistance of young seedlings. This is an exciting time to be involved in conifer genetics, since new genomic tools can make breeding programs more efficient and increase the rate of genetic gain by allowing breeders to make selections at an earlier stage.


Adam Festa
Hi! I am a current Ph.D candidate majoring in Functional Genomics and Forestry here with the NCSU Tree Improvement Program. My educational background consists of a Bachelors in Plant Biology and a minor in Crop Science. Currently, the research I’m involved in with the Cooperative Tree Improvement Program includes phenotypic prediction utilizing gene expression data, analysis of differential expression, and creation of a forward-based population breeding software aimed at evaluating and mitigating the impacts of long-term inbreeding depression.





Mphahlele Mmoledi (University of Pretoria, South Africa)
Hi I am a PhD student at the University of Pretoria working with Professors Zander Myburg and Fikret Isik.  Genomic selection (GS) is widely seen as an appealing approach for the application of marker assisted breeding for quantitative traits in tree breeding to accelerate genetic gains per unit time. My PhD studies the plausible implementation of GBLUP and Bayesian GS models in Eucalyptus grandis breeding for growth and wood property traits using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. The primary focusing is to interrogate the benefit to cost ratio of GS in E. grandis breeding versus the current tradition progeny testing strategy based on pedigree and phenotypic BLUP.




Master of Science 









Colin Jackson 
I am a Masters student working with the NCSU Cooperative Tree Improvement Program and CAMCORE. I received my undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University in microbiology with an emphasis in cell and molecular biology. My research focus is on using bioinformatics techniques on exome capture data for SNP identification in pine species. Additionally, I am interested in using sequence data to look at population structure differences between and within species.











Syamsudin Ahmad Slamet
I started my MS degree in Fall 2018. I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in Forest Genetics at North Carolina State University. My research interest is in quantitative genetics and tree breeding strategies to produce superior genotypes for pulp & papers production. I earned a bachelor’s degree in Forestry at Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB, Indonesia) in 2015. Prior to his current career, I worked as a Acacia Tree Improvement research scientist at an industrial tree plantation, Riau Andalan Puld and Paper (PT. RAPP), a subsidiary company of Asia Pacific Resources International Holdings Ltd (APRIL), Indonesia for 2 and a half years.



Former graduate students


Alfredo Farjat (2015)
Duke University
Optimal Seed Deployment under Climate Change using Spatial Models and Prediction of Genetic Merit in Loblolly Pine.

Funda Ogut (2012)
Coruh University, Turkey
Predictions of Genetic Merit in Tree Breeding Using Factor Analytic Linear Mixed Models and Blended Genomic Relationship Matrices.

Jaime Zapata (2011)
Arauco, Chile
Incorporation of Molecular Marker and Spatial Data into Analysis of Clonally-Replicated Progeny Tests.


Jessica Maynor (2018)
Provenance Variation in Biomass Potential for Improved Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda L.) Families at a Piedmont Site in North Carolina

Andrew Sims (2017)
University of Florida,
Genetic Parameter Estimates from 3rd-Cycle Pollen Mix Progeny Tests in Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda L.)

Serenia Larrison (2017)
Soil Compaction in Loblolly Pine Seed Orchards and the Impacts on Tree Health and Cone Yields.

Tyler Eckard (2008)
Bayer Crop Science,
Rapid screening for solid wood quality traits in clones of Loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) by indirect measurements.