Principal Investigators

From left to right are the principal investigators of the project: Dr. Sarah Evans, Dr. Lisa Tiemann, Dr. Maren Friesen and Dr. Jim Cole.
Sarah Evans is a soil microbial ecologist who aims to link microbial processes to biogeochemical cycles. With a background in N-cycling processes, she has led efforts to describe how microbial responses to environmental stress can influence ecosystem function, and used novel approaches that couple biogeochemical assays, field manipulations, and microbial metagenomics to identify functionally-relevant traits of microbial communities.
Lisa Tiemann is a soil biologist and biogeochemist who works at the interface of basic research and applied systems. She has extensive training and background in the use of stable isotopes in ecological studies and all biogeochemical assays that are used in this project. Her research focus on N-cycling processes and microbial contributions to soil organic matter formation and accrual are particularly relevant to this project.
Maren Friesen is an evolutionary ecologist with expertise in N-fixing plant-microbe symbioses, plant and bacterial genomics, transcriptomics, and evolutionary and ecological modeling. Her research uses integrated systems approaches to understand how the structure and function of plant-associated microbial communities influence plant functional traits.
Jim Cole is a molecular microbial ecologist and responsible for the Ribosomal Database Project (RDP) at Michigan State University. RDP aids in discovery and characterization of microbes in systems ranging from soil to the human microbiome, based on data, tools and analysis services provided through RDP to the research community.

Postdoctoral Researchers

Lukas Bell-Dereske is a postdoctoral associate in the Evans lab. He is fascinated by the factors that drive plant and microbial community composition within the context of climate change. Lukas is currently exploring the microbial community of leaves of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and how rain drives leaf community assembly.

Yuan Liu is a postdoctoral associate in the Tiemann lab. He is interested in understanding how the rhizosphere microbiome in PBCS on marginal lands acquires C resources from plants vs SOM to fuel N transformations.

Renee Petipas is a postdoctoral associate in the Friesen lab.  Dr. Petipas is motivated to understand the role of the microbiome in host adaptation. She is currently interested in manipulating microbial community composition in the switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) rhizosphere to enhance levels of biological nitrogen fixation and enhance plant productivity.

Xiufen (Sophia) Li is a postdoctoral research associate in the Friesen lab. Sophia is inspired to understand the soil-plant-microbe interactions regarding soil health, nutrients cycling, plant growth, plant productivity, and greenhouse gas emission.  Sophia is currently exploring how soil properties, switchgrass cultivation, and nitrogen (N) fertilization affect soil microbial community structure and activities, N cycling and availability, and plant growth and productivity.

Graduate Students

Tayler Chicoine Ulbrich is interested in using switchgrass as a model system to investigate how different plant ecotypes may select for and harbor distinct microbial communities that, in turn, influence their tolerance to drought.

Research Staff

Santosh Gunturu works with the Cole group.
Holly Vander Stel is a research technician and MMPRNT project coordinator.
Emily Burgess is a research technician in the Evans lab.
Cheristy Jones is a research technician in the Tiemann lab.
Cait Lloyd is a research technician in the Tiemann lab.
Sarah Ruth is a research technician in the Tiemann lab.
Amanda Antoch is a research technician in the Friesen lab.


Darian Smercina: PhD student in the Tiemann lab.
Richard Allen White: Postdoc in the Frisen lab.
Charity Mackie: Technician in the Tiemann lab.
Christin Landis: Technician in the Frisen lab.
Remy Van Geersdaële: Technician in the Evans lab.
Laura Miscoe: Technician in the Frisen lab.
Zhenyao Ye: Technician in the Frisen lab.
Jordan Priebe: Technician in the Frisen lab.
Colleen Friel: PhD student.
Chase Kasmerchak: Technician in the Tiemann lab.
Corinn Rutkoski: Technician in the Evans lab.
Yahn-Juah Su: Technician in the Evans lab.
Yang Ouyang: Post-doc in Tiemann Lab.
Kisanet Gebresilase: 2018 URA in the Evans Lab.
Harry Ervin: 2018 undergraduate assistant in the Evans Lab.
Audrey Hogenkamp: 2018 REU in the Evans Lab.
Shanna Hilborn: 2018 URA in the Evans Lab.
Zahraa Al-Tameemi:: 2018 URA in the Evans Lab.
Unser Hashsham: worked with the Cole group.
Cody Bekkering: Technician in Friesen Lab.
Alan Bowsher: Post-doc in Friesen Lab.
Aaron Garoutte: Post-doc in Friesen Lab.
Steve Gougherty: Technician in Evans Lab and Project Coordinator for MMPRNT.
Jeff Norman: Post-doc in Friesen Lab.
Shannon Carvey: Technician in Evans Lab.
Kevin Dougherty: Managed the Evans Lab.
Amanda Harden: Managed the Tiemann Lab.
Daniela Herrera: Summer 2017 research technician.
Will West: Post-doc in Evans Lab.
Jon Hileman: 2017 LTER-REU in Friesen Lab.
Harry Ervin: 2017 REU in Evans Lab.
Khalilah Smith: 2017 URA in Evans Lab.
Francisca Donkor: 2017 REU in Evans Lab.
Natalie VanDyke: Autumn 2016 research technician.
Kathryn Bloodworth: Summer 2016 REU student.
Kelechi Ukachukwu: Summer 2016 URA.

The MMPRNT project has been made possible though a grant from the United States Department of Energy.