Aidan Shands, CSU Monterey Bay

Aidan Shands testing agriculture in a field

Aidan graduated in May 2017 from CSU Monterey Bay with a Bachelor of Science in biology, with a concentration in molecular biology.

Aidan entered his undergraduate studies at CSU Monterey Bay intending to major in marine science. During his sophomore year he decided to switch his focus to biology, recognizing there may be more opportunities in the field while also discovering a strong interest in molecular biology through the courses he was taking.

Aidan enrolled in an inorganic chemistry course and instead of hurrying through lab like most students, he would stay through the entire lab to get additional instruction, enhance his knowledge and just generally soak-up the lab experience. During these additional hours in the lab, he developed a strong mentor relationship with Dr. John Goeltz, the faculty member teaching the lab. Dr. Goeltz introduced Aidan to Dr. Timothy Miles who happened to be looking for a student to work in his lab on an ARI-funded project.

Dr. Miles is an assistant professor in the School of Natural Sciences at Monterey Bay specializing in plant pathology. Lettuce is an important crop in California, and most of it is grown in Monterey County. All crops are afflicted with diseases that can reduce yield and if left unabated can kill the plants. Lettuce is no exception and many long-standing and emerging diseases threaten the crop.

Aiden’s ARI project used molecular techniques to identify disease causing pathogens, such as those causing downy mildew. The goal is to develop “point of care” diagnostics the growers can use in the field to rapidly diagnose disease. This project gave Aidan the opportunity to develop leadership skills and operate independently in a research setting. He also learned about having to navigate multiple research and academic deadlines. Aidan stated that the project allowed him to feel a sense of contributing to something larger that had a realistic potential to impact the field. Aidan worked in Dr. Miles lab for two years gaining research experience that would make him competitive for a PhD program. This past summer (July 2017) Aidan entered the Plant Pathology Graduate program at U.C. Riverside to begin working on a PhD and received a UCR Dean’s Distinguished fellowship. His goal is to understand the molecular and genetic basis of plant immunity against oomycete pathogens in the lab of Dr. Patricia Manosalva.