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Last update: May 2021

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PAG 2023 Speaker Profiles

14 January 2023 - IWGSC workshop - Plant and Animal Genome Conference, San Diego, CA, USA

PAG 2023 Speaker Profiles
The following scientists will present their research during the IWGSC workshop.


Daniela Miller

PhD Candidate in Crop Science
North Carolina State University

Recipient of the 2023 IWGSC Early Career Award - Read her interview here

Research Interests
Developing whole genome assembly resources to accelerate breeding methods

Current Projects
Genetic control of glaucousness in wheat, an epicuticular wax trait that has implications for adaptation and yield, especially in stress environments.

PAG talk
Date: Saturday 14 January 2023, 8:10am
Title: High-Fidelity Long-Read Sequencing Enables Rapid Detection of Structural and Copy Number Variants: A Case Study in Soft Winter Wheat

Crop and Soil Sciences Department, NCSU


Maxim Messerer

Postdoctoral Researcher
Plant Genome and Systems Biology group
Helmholtz Centre, Munich

Research Interest
My main focus lies on transcriptomics and epigenomics. It’s always nice to see the correlations between gene expression, accessible chromatin, methylation and ChIP marks.

Current Projects
I am currently working on wheat and barley, but I also have projects about quinoa, robinia and datepalm at the moment. I am analyzing data for all plant species that I get.

PAG talk
Date: Saturday 14 January 2023, 8:30am
Title: A Dynamic Epigenomic Landscape in Synthetic Hybrid Wheat Establishes Stable Changes in Gene Expression

- ResearchGate 
- Ofenmacher 


Constanze Schmidt

PhD Student
Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK)

Research Interest
Besides my strong interest for my PhD project (hybrid production in wheat), I am very interested in flowering biology of other crops and phenotyping methods. In general, I am interested in current breeding topics and how we can create a more sustainable agriculture. However, with my degree in biology, I also still think biological questions are very exciting; how genes are regulated, which genes cause which phenotypes, epigenetics and priming, etc.

Current Projects
At the moment I am mainly involved in the HyFlor project, where we want to understand the flowering biology of wheat in regard of hybrid wheat production. The project is supervised by Prof. Dr. Thorsten Schnurbusch and Prof. Dr. Jochen C. Reif.  During my research, I did many experiments in glasshouse/field to test different traits: crossability, anther extrusion, female receptivity... the major goal is to find the most important traits for hybrid wheat production and the underlying genes regulating these traits.
Out of my results for anther extrusion we wrote a side project to investigate the influence of filament elongation speed/time-point of anther dehiscence on outcrossing rate.

PAG talk
Date: Saturday 14 January 2023, 8:50am
Title: Beyond Anther Extrusion: Trait Discovery for Efficient Hybrid Wheat Production

- Lab page
- Twitter


Hanin Ahmed

PhD Student
Center for Desert Agriculture
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)
Saudi Arabia

Research Interest
I am interested in studying cereal genomes, and their evolutionary history using population genomics.
My research aims to utilize recent advances in DNA sequencing technology to establish high-quality genomic resources for underutilized cereal crops, and use these resources to unlock their genetic diversity, and understand their evolution and domestication history.

Current Projects
I am focusing on using genomics to establish genomic resources for einkorn wheat, the oldest domesticated wheat. The einkorn genome project includes: 1) the generation of reference genome assemblies using recent advances in long-read DNA sequencing technology and scaffolding methods. 2) Whole genome sequencing of a large diversity panel of wild and domesticated einkorn accessions to unveil the evolutionary history of einkorn wheat.

PAG talk
Date: Saturday 14 January 2023, 9:10am
Title: Einkorn Genome Provides a Toolbox for Wheat Improvement

- Twitter
- LinkedIn
- Center for Desert Agriculture
- Lab page


Matthias Heuberger

Ph.D. Student
Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
University of Zurich
Zurich, Switzerland

Research Interest
The focus of my research is genome evolution. I am especially interested in how Triticeae genomes are shaped by the activity of transposable elements and if and how transposable element insertions can be beneficial or detrimental to the fitness of the host organism. Another focal point of my research is the co-evolution of the wheat-powdery mildew pathosystem. Powdery mildew is a devastating fungal disease caused by Blumeria graminis f.sp. tritici. Most molecularly cloned powdery mildew resistance (R) genes present in wheat are part of gene clusters. Interestingly, this is also the case for powdery mildew effector genes. These gene clusters are speculated to be in a co-evolutionary arms-race; the host benefitting from diversity on the R gene side, to recognize a variety of fungal effectors, while the fungus benefits from diversity in the effector clusters, to avoid detection by R genes. I am interested in understanding the genomic mechanisms underlying the dynamics of these gene clusters involved in the wheat-powdery mildew pathosystem.

Current Projects
- Einkorn wheat genomic analysis of centromeres with a focus on transposable element dynamics.
- GWAS assisted, molecular cloning of powdery mildew R genes and fungal Avr genes.
- Comparative genomics of R gene and Avr gene clusters.

PAG talk
Date: Saturday 14 January 2023, 9:30am
Title: Retrotransposons Drive Dynamics and Evolution of Centromeres in Triticum Monococcum (Einkorn wheat)Link

- Twitter
- LinkedIn
- Lab page


Maria Alejandra Alvarez

Research Specialist 
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
University of California Davis
Department of Plant Sciences
Davis, California, USA

Research Interest
My research interests are in the areas of plant genetics and pre-breeding. I’m passionate about accessing natural genetic diversity through germplasm characterization and population development, but I also believe it is imperative to deepen our understanding of the molecular mechanisms that control traits of interest to be able to engineer novel allelic variants.

Current Projects
My main area of research is the molecular dissection of the photoperiodic response pathway in wheat. I am working on the functional characterization of genes that control the response to photoperiod using genetics and molecular biology tools, such as mutagenesis, transgenesis, epistatic interaction studies, gene expression analysis, and phenotypic evaluations.

PAG talk
Date: Saturday 14 January 2023, 9:50am
Title: Utilization of a Sequenced EMS-Mutagenized Population to Characterize the Photoperiodic Response in Wheat

Lab page 
- LinkedIn