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Woman working with basil plants in greenhouse

Lara Brindisi

Ph.D. Student

Track: Plant Breeding and Genomics

Research Interests: Lara Brindisi is a PhD candidate captivated by the complexity of plant genomics and discoveries that benefit human and environmental health. Her dissertation research on chilling tolerance in basil has fostered her passion for plant breeding, crop diversity and bioinformatics. As a result, she aims to enrich and increase access to genetic resources for niche crops to ultimately benefit growers and the greater community. Science communication is an essential part of her research framework as she believes that sharing the story behind the science is as important as the science itself.

Rob Mattera, III

Ph.D. Student

Track: Plant Breeding & Genomics





Research Interests: Robert is fascinated by the idea of plant and crop improvement for aesthetic, agronomic and medicinal uses. He uses modern molecular tools alongside traditional plant breeding to make breeding quicker and more efficient. Identifying putative genes, genome exploration and molecular markers associated with traits of interest is a central focus of his dissertation. Essential oils and the chemistry of secondary metabolites also play an important role in what drives him to explore basil. Robert is also interested in fermentation and distillation and is one of the co-founders of 3BR Distillery, a craft distillery in which small-batch spirits and liqueurs are derived from unique and interesting botanicals.


Alex Barret

Ph.D. Student



Research Interests: Alex is a second-year Ph. D student focusing on plant breeding and genetics. His goal is to bring science out of the lab by harnessing modern techniques to drive real-world change. In practice, this means discovering and utilizing new insights into the Sweet Basil genome to breed resilient, disease-resistant, and aromatic new cultivars. Ultimately, the final result is to make cultivation easier for our farmers so they can provide excellent products to all of us.

Kirsten Allen

Ph.D. Student

Track: Natural Products and Human Health

Research Interest: Kirsten Allen, born and raised in the Metro Atlanta area, is currently a 5th-year Ph.D. Candidate at Rutgers University-New Brunswick pursuing her doctoral studies in Plant Biology with a concentration in Natural Products and Human Health. She pursued her Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Georgia along with a minor in Plant Biology and a Certificate in International Agriculture. There she engaged in research within five different laboratories and ultimately discovered her passion for investigating plant natural products and their biologically active secondary metabolites.

Woman scientists in field of basil

Tori Rosen

Ph.D. Student

Track: Plant Breeding and Genetics

Research Interests: Tori is a 3rd-year PhD student in the department of Plant Biology focusing on crop introduction and improvement of bioculturally-preferred leafy greens, amaranth and roselle. She is interested in increasing the accessibility and quality of key vegetables in under-represented migrant diets, focusing on consumer preferences, agronomic traits, and nutrient-density. Her research considers food market trends, climate-resilient agriculture, and micronutrient-deficiencies within migrant populations. Ultimately, she hopes to improve the diversity and quality of specialty produce within the United States.