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Lab Members


Dr. Margaret Frank

Principle Investigator

Margaret is a molecular plant biologist who is broadly interested in understanding how multicellular organisms communicate across tissues and organ systems, and applying this knowledge towards sustainable crop production. Margaret joined Cornell's School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS) in July 2018. Prior to moving to Cornell, Margaret was an NSF PGRP Postdoctoral Fellow at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St Louis, MO, where she studied the dynamics of graft junction formation and graft-transmissible RNA movement. 

Margaret earned her PhD at Cornell, working with Mike Scanlon on the evolution of shoot meristem patterning in early land plant lineages.

When she's not doing science, Margaret loves to run, travel, and drink coffee.

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Michelle Heeney

Ph.D. Student

Michelle is a PhD student in the Frank Lab and the Roeder Lab. She works on dissecting the underpinnings controlling and influencing long distance mRNA movement. Michelle graduated from the University of Massachusetts with two B.S.' one in biology and one in math with a concentration in statistics. Her undergraduate thesis work focused on floral morphology in grasses, under the guidance of Dr. Madelaine Bartlett

Michelle also worked in the biotech industry at the startup company Inari Agriculture where she developed her skills of plant transformation and bioinformatics. 

Outside of the lab Michelle has a passion for film photography and fine art. 


Nicole Szeluga

Ph.D. Candidate

Nicole is a PhD student in the Frank Lab.  She's working on re-engineering soybean flowers to attract pollinators, and ultimately enable soybean to take advantage of hybrid vigor. Nicole graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. Her undergraduate thesis focused on gene interaction for flower development in Arabidopsis, under the guidance of Dr. Zhongchi Liu.

Aside from research, Nicole loves ballroom/social dancing, Broadway musicals, and doting on her high maintenance cat, Bentley. 


Brandon Williams

Ph.D. Candidate

Brandon is a Ph.D. student in the Frank Lab. He is working on engineering a biofluorescent reporter system in tomatoes that would alert famers to nitrogen and phosphorus-deficient soil conditions by performing a “three-step hijack” of the endogenous c-terminally encoded peptide (CEP) system.

His alma mater is the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland where he majored in Conservation Biology and minored in Chemistry.

His undergraduate research focused on elucidating the symbiotic relationship between angiosperms and pink-pigmented facultative methylotrophic (PPFM) bacteria.


Arielle Johnson

Ph.D. Candidate

Arielle is a Ph.D. candidate in the Frank Lab.  She is interested in the connections between plant development and specialized metabolism.  Arielle’s work focuses on latex chemistry and laticifer development in the genus Euphorbia.  She did her undergraduate degree at Brown University, where she majored in biology and worked on imaging pollen tubes and quantifying soil respiration.
Outside of the lab, Arielle enjoys hiking, botanizing, playing musical instruments, and reading.


Elise Boisevert

Ph.D. Student

Elise is a PhD student in the Frank lab where she works to shine light on the inner workings of grafted plants. She studies what is happening on a cellular and molecular level as the plant works to heal and join together. Elise started in the Frank lab during her undergraduate at Cornell. Her undergraduate work included a focus in rootstocks and root architecture, and in heterografting solanaceous plants to track mRNA movement.

Outside of the lab, Elise enjoys kayaking, hiking, and hanging out with her cute dogs.


Samantha Pelletier

Research Technician

Samantha is a lab technician in the Frank Lab. Samantha graduated from Connecticut College with a B.A. in botany with a minor in chemistry. Her undergraduate thesis focused on understanding the auxin biosynthetic genes, YUCCAs, under drought stress in the genus Populus.

Outside of the lab, Sam enjoys hiking, reading, and spending time with her dogs.


Weiwei Chen

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Weiwei is a post-doctoral researcher in the Frank lab. She’s working on mobile signals from roots to shoots in Arabidopsis.


Weiwei got her Ph.D. in Plant Sciences and Biotechnology from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona - Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics.


Outside of the lab, Weiwei enjoys watching films, finding good restaurants, and shopping.

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Tian Gong

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Tian is a post-doctoral researcher in the Frank lab. She’s working on grafted tomato production under high tunnel conditions.

Tian got her Ph.D. in Horticultural Sciences from the University of Florida.


Tian is known to enjoy exploring Ithaca and eating Cornell dairy ice cream in her free time! 


Noor AlBader

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Noor broadly studies the transcriptional response to abiotic and biotic stressors in plants. Her work has encompassed staple crops such as rice, to novelty organisms such as chia and the beaver. Her genomic work has also led her to work on date palm and wild relatives of rice, with a focus on adaptation to desert and costal regions, respectively, at the Center of Desert Agriculture (KAUST).
She completed her PhD (2019) in the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program at Oregon State University (OSU). She is now a post-doctoral researcher, co-hosted by the Frank and Nelson labs. 

Vesna Bacheva

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Vesna is a postdoc who is working on developing new technologies and methods to study vasculartransport in plants. She is co-hosted by the Frank and Stroock labs and is supported by the SwissNational Science Foundation and the Kavli Institute at Cornell.Vesna holds a PhD in mechanical engineering and has received training from EPFL and IBMResearch in Switzerland, as well as Technion in Israel. In her free time, Vesna enjoys biking and yoga.

Ashley Bao

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Ashley is an undergraduate in the Frank Lab. Under the guidance of her mentor, Arielle Johnson, Ashley has helped to image laticifers and cyathia in Euphorbia to study their development.


Ashley is majoring in Plant Sciences with a concentration in Sustainable Plant Production. Her love of plants stems (pun intended!) from many summers spent gardening and cooking with vegetables from her backyard garden.

Sam Yanders

Ph.D. Student

Sam is a PhD student in the Frank lab where she studies the mechanisms that regulate graft compatibility. She received her B.S. in Plant Sciences with emphases in Biology, Horticulture, and Crop Sciences from the University of Missouri. Her undergraduate research focused on the characterization of genes related to ATP stress signaling in the lab of Dr. Gary Stacey, as well as teaching undergraduate courses under the guidance of Dr. Mary Ann Gowdy. 

In her free time, Sam enjoys kayaking, cooking, playing video games, spending time with friends, and making her dog wear funny clothes.

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Matthew Norman-Ariztía

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Matthew is an undergraduate research assistant majoring in Plant Sciences with a concentration in Plant Breeding and Genetics. He is interested in produce genomics and breeding, and wants to learn more about breeding and grafting projects look like, including learning more about what working in the field is like.

Outside of the lab, Matthew spends his time playing the cello, writing music, cooking, and going to the gym.


Guinevere Goldberg

Scientist in training

Gwenny joined the lab in November 2019. Since then she has provided her expertise in tomato taste-testing. She can be found joining Margaret in meetings, stomping in puddles, or enjoying daycare.

Past Members


Dr. Hannah Rae Thomas

Ph.D. Recipient


Diego Hernandez

Undergraduate Researcher


Paul Ren-Huang Chong

Undergraduate Researcher

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Audrey Widmier



Jenny Probst

Undergraduate Lab Tech


Dr. Kevin Hines

Lab Tech


Umair Ahsan

Post-Doctoral Resarcher


Matthew Hecking

Lab Tech

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Sophia Monroe

REU Intern


Nicole Hempel

Undergraduate Researcher


Allie Hermanson

Undergraduate Researcher


Yuanzheng Yue

Visiting Postdoctoral Scholar


Dr. Hamid Razifard

Post-Doctoral Researcher

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Eliza O'Donnell

REU Intern


David Zimmerman

REU Intern


Kylie Shae Weis

REU Intern


Kyle Griswold

Undergraduate Researcher


Jules Hart

Undergraduate Researcher


Alice Gevorgyan

Undergraduate Researcher & Lab Technician

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Thomas Lonergan

Research Assistant

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Alexis Ellis

REU Intern

Jack Greger

REU Intern

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Oge Okpala

REU Intern

More coming soon


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