Former Students and Scholars
Heather MacKay, Project Manager
Heather MacKay has lived in Lynden, WA with her family since 2005. She grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe before moving to South Africa to complete her college education. Heather has a BSc in Physics and Applied Mathematics from Rhodes University, South Africa, and a Ph.D. in Physical Oceanography from the University of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Heather’s career has been mostly in the public sector, working as a water and environmental policy specialist. She served for several years as Senior Specialist Scientist in the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry focusing on development of water quality standards, national water policy and water law. Heather was then appointed to the Water Research Commission of South Africa where she managed national portfolios related to water policy, water law and governance, institutional development and environmental water requirements. She chaired the Scientific and Technical Review Panel of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands from 2005 to 2012, and concurrently was a member of the Panel’s international working group on water resources and river basin management. Heather’s local work in Washington State has focused on water management and agriculture in Whatcom County, helping farmers and planners find ways to protect and enhance both working farmlands and water resources. Heather joined the WSU Mount Vernon NWREC in November 2019, and served as the Project Manager for two grants from the USDA NIFA Specialty Crops Research Initiative: ‘Stop the rot: Combating onion bacterial diseases with pathogenomic tools and enhanced management strategies’, and ‘Improving end-of-life management of plastic mulch in strawberry systems’. In her spare time, Heather enjoys hiking, sailing the coastal waters with her family, and exploring local trails with her horse.
Maxime Eeraerts, Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Dr. Maxime Eeraerts was born and raised in Belgium, the heart of Europe. At Ghent University he obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree of Bioscience Engineering in Forest and Nature Management in 2013 and a Master’s degree in Environmental Sanitation and Environmental Management in 2014. Afterwards Maxime worked on multiple projects about applied entomology in fruit cultivation, landscape ecology and ecotoxicological studies focused on wild bees. In 2020, Maxime obtained a Ph.D. in Applied Biological Sciences at Ghent University. During his Ph.D. project he studied how landscape structure and the diversity of pollinating insects mediate crop pollination in sweet cherry orchards. Maxime joined the team of Dr. DeVetter at WSU in February 2021 and his research focused on improving the use of honey bees and wild pollinators to enhance blueberry pollination and yield. Maxime is fascinated by the outdoors, likes to cook, plant trees and grow shiitake mushrooms on oak logs in the forest.
Qianwen Lu, Ph.D. Candidate
Qianwen is from Nanjing, China, a charming metropolitan full of history and culture as well as modern arts. She achieved her BS in Forest Science from Nanjing Forestry University and participated in a one-year visiting student program at the University of Georgia. Her research interests are maintenance of soil health and remediation of contaminated soil and water. She began her graduate work with Drs. Lisa DeVetter and Haiying Tao in the Fall of 2018. Her research focused on nutrient management practices in raspberry and blueberry and impacts on plant productivity, fruit quality, and soil health.
Sam Chronert, M.S. AG Student
Sam is from San Francisco, California, where the focus on environmentalism sparked his interest in sustainable agriculture. After graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2018 with a double major in Biology and Medicine, Health, and Society, Sam spent a year working on an aquaponics farm for a non-profit in the Bahamas. In August 2019, Sam went to work for Plenty, a vertical farming startup, where he is now a Grower helping to manage the production of various leafy green crops. Sam began his M.S. in Plant Health Management in August 2020, and is excited to continue to learn more about all things plants!
Will Bieker was a senior at Western Washington University studying ecology, evolution, and organismal biology. He worked with Lisa DeVetter on raspberry color analysis. Some of his favorite things to do are foraging for mushrooms, backpacking with my dogs, and sailing.
Xuechun “May” Wang, M.S. Student
Xuechun, or “May”, is from Qinhuangdao, China, a beautiful coastal city well-known as the starting point of the Great Wall. She finished her BS degree at the University of Florida (UF) and graduated with higher honors (Magna cum laude) in plant science with a specialization on plant health and protection. Starting her junior year in college, she worked at the UF/IFAS Plant Diagnostic Center and found strong research interests on plant pathology. She wants to pursue studies in applied plant pathology and research on plant disease management. Her goal is to help farmers and industry members figure out what is wrong with their plants and how to deal with them. May started her M.S. studies Dr. Lisa DeVetter’s small fruit horticulture lab in Fall 2020 working on a strawberry grey mold project along with plant pathologist, Dr. Lydia Tymon. She focused on double cropping with lettuce and the comparison of plastic mulches and biodegradable mulches on the epidemiology of grey mold.
Amy Cardenas, M.S.AG Student
Amy was born and raised in Oxnard, CA, a small city in Southern California, that is widely known for agriculture, and more specifically for strawberry production. She obtained her BS in Plant Science from California Polytechnic University, Pomona. Shortly after completing her undergrad program, Amy began her career with Driscoll’s Inc. as a part of the applied research team. Her day-to-day work consists of genetic deployment research, production system innovation, and whole lot of data analysis on blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries research trials. Amy began her M.S. degree program in Summer 2019 studying the occurrences and influencers of malformations in strawberry fruits.
Brenda was born in El Salvador, a very small country in Central America. Her family moved to Snohomish County when she was seven years old. When she started college, she thought that she would end up in the medicine field, but soon learned that agriculture was more fitting, and natural. Brenda completed her undergraduate degree in Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Systems at WSU Everett in 2020. She completed her M.S. degree in Dec. 2021 in DeVetter’s program. Her thesis research focused on biodegradable plastic mulches in small fruit production with an emphasis on evaluating compounds that had the potential to enhance degradation and understanding risk and uncertainty during the adoption of polyethylene and biodegradable plastic mulches among raspberry growers. Brenda also studied planting density in plasticulture-based June-bearing strawberry systems. In her spare time, she tends to her garden where she grows a mix of berries, cut flowers and herbs. Brenda’s other interest include going on long hikes with her dog Leah.
Yixin Cai, M.S. Student
Yixin is from Shanghai, China, a vibrant metropolis full of traditional and modern architecture. She received her BS degrees in Genetics and Plant Biology (GPB) and Molecular Toxicology from University of California, Berkeley. She worked in botanical garden and USDA laboratory in her senior year and found her interest in horticulture. Yixin graduated from the program in 2020 and recently started her Ph.D. research at the University of Maryland. The focus of her M.S. research was on testing practices and harvest technologies that allow for the mechanical harvest of fresh market blueberry with high fruit quality and high harvest efficiency.
Huan Zhang, Ph.D.
Huan is from Xi’an, the most historical city in China. Not too many people know this city, but they definitely know the Terra-Cotta Warriors at his hometown. Huan attended University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Northwest Agriculture & Forestry University and received his B.S. in Horticulture. He has been in horticulture fields for many years and worked for agronomy and plant pathology laboratories during his junior and senior years. However, he gradually realized that his real interest is in field fruit and vegetable production. For Huan’s Ph.D., Huan studied application of biodegradable and non-biodegradable mulches in red raspberry. He also collaborated with Dr. Miles in Vegetable Horticulture on biodegradable mulch application and adhesion in pumpkin. Huan graduated in 2020 and now works at Costa as a Pest and Disease Manager.
Weixin Gan, M.S. Student
Weixin comes from Fujian, China, a place with green hills and clear waters and is famous for tea. She finished her B.S in landscape architecture from Beijing Forestry University. Her undergraduate thesis was about the growth conditions and cultivation management of tissue culture seedings of crabapple. Having a strong interest in horticulture, she decided to study horticulture more deeply at WSU. She began her graduate work at WSU with Dr. Lisa Wasko DeVetter in the fall of 2017. The focus of her research was evaluating in-field practices that have potential to improve pollination and yields in highbush blueberry grown in western Washington, including pheromone application and modified honey bee hive densities. She also studied how temperature impacts pollen germination and vigor among key commercial highbush blueberry cultivars. Weixin graduated summer 2019.
Amit Bhasin, M.S. Student
Amit comes from the “Agricultural Hub of India”, Punjab. He did his B.S. Agriculture majoring in Horticulture (2017) from Punjab Agricultural University, India. His inclination towards agriculture started at a young age while planting vegetables with his grandfather. Amit’s curiosity to explore and learn more about this arena led him to pursue a M.S at WSU. In Amit’s free time, he loves to play Badminton. His research focuses on evaluating and optimizing fertilizer sources/rates and nitrogen cut-off times in organic blueberry production in central Washington. Amit’s advisors are Drs. Lisa DeVetter and Joan Davenport. Amit graduated in Fall 2019 and his research is still ongoing.
Nadia Bostan, Visiting Scholar
Nadia belongs to Swat Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan known as the “Switzerland of Asia”. She received her M.S. (Hons) in Horticulture in 2013 from the University of Agriculture Peshawar. Nadia has a strong agricultural family background and enjoyed a rich work experience in diverse livelihood sectors in Pakistan by working in the capacity as a Horticulturist, Field Facilitator, Trainer of Trainers and Enterprise Development Officer. Currently, she is pursuing her Ph.D. degree in Horticulture from the University of Agriculture Peshawar and conducts her research at the Agriculture Research Institute Swat. Nadia continues her studies and research while serving the country as a Research Officer at the Agriculture Research Institute Swat. Her area of interest is developing production technologies for small fruit crops to cope with climate extremes. Her Ph.D. work focuses on studying the effects of plant growth regulators (PGR), fertilizer application, and chilling levels under various shading intensities and shade net colors on fruit quality and runner production in strawberry.
Rachel Rudolph, Ph.D.
Rachel is a former Ph.D. student co-advised by Drs. DeVetter and Zasada (USDA ARS). Her thesis work is titled, “Soil quality and management alternatives in red raspberry (Rubus idaeus L.) in the Pacific Northwest”. Rachel graduated in December 2017 and is now an Assistant Extension Professor at the University of Kentucky.
Matthew Arrington, Ph.D.
Matt graduated from the SFH program with his Ph.D. in December 2017. His thesis title is, “Optimization of pollination and fruit set in northern highbush blueberry.” Matt now faculty at Brigham Young University and leads a research and teaching program there.
Watch a video about Matt and his experiences at WSU Mount Vernon.