Lab Members

Frank Lab
Frank Lab
Frank Lab Members
Frank Lab
Frank Lab
Frank Lab
Frank Lab
Frank Lab
Frank Lab
Frank Lab
Frank Lab Members
Frank Lab Members
Frank Lab Members
Frank 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 in the Chitwood and Meyers labs. 

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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Hannah Thomas

Ph.D. Candidate

Hannah is a Ph.D. candidate interested in how inter-species grafting occurs. She's using tomato and pepper (Pepmato and Tomepper) as a model for herbaceous graft incompatibility. She is working to understand the factors that determine graft compatibility and interspecies communication. She is a USDA Predoctoral Research Fellow.

Hannah earned her BS at Pittsburg State University in Kansas, where she did research on the specific T-regulatory cells important during pregnancy in rats. 

When she's not doing science, Hannah enjoys running, swimming, and her pets Sebastian and Tater Tot.


Nicole Szeluga

Ph.D. Student

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. Student

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

PhD 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.


Yuanzheng Yue

Visiting Scholar

Yuanzheng Yue is a CSC funded postdoc working on interspecific periclinal chimeras in tomato. He earned his PhD at Huazhong Agricultural University China, where he did research on the anther development in petunia. He is a teacher in Nanjing Forestry University, where he is working on the aroma and color formation mechanism during flower development in Osmanthus fragrance and Lycoris longituba. One of his long term goals is to apply what he learns from tomato chimeras in woody ornamental crops improvement.

Outside the lab, Yuanzheng enjoys playing basketball and eating hot-pot with friends.


Hamid Razifard

Post-Doctoral Researcher

Hamid is an evolutionary plant biologist interested in changes happening in plant species over time. He is interested in evolutionary changes caused by both natural selection as well as selection by humans. Hamid joined the Frank lab in October 2020. Before joining the lab, Hamid worked as a postdoctoral researcher at UMass Amherst with Ana Caicedo studying the domestication history of the cultivated tomato using genomic tools. Currently, Hamid's studies have two main foci: 1) understanding the domestication history of the cultivated eggplant; 2) understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in graft computability between eggplant and tomato.
Hamid has received his PhD from University of Connecticut, with Donald Les as his advisor, on the systematics of waterworts (Elatine), a group of aquatic dicots with terrestrial ancestors.
In his free time, Hamid enjoys running, hiking, photography, botanizing, birding, camping, cooking, and reading.


Allie Hermanson

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Allie is an undergraduate student working in the Frank Lab. She is a Plant Science major with a concentration in Plant Breeding and Genetics. Allie is working on various applications of plant grafting, as well as learning new laboratory techniques. She is excited to conduct independent research and perform plant transformations.

While not working in the lab, Allie enjoys baking pastries and desserts, playing soccer, and photography.


Alice Gevorgyan

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Alice is an undergraduate working in the Frank lab. She is majoring in Plant Sciences with a concentration in Plant Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology. Alice is excited to take part in the research being conducted in the Frank lab and to learn new lab techniques and skills. She is particularly interested in growing genetically modified plants and imaging graft junctions.

In her free time, Alice enjoys playing her clarinet, reading, and photography. 


Nicole Hempel

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Nicole is an undergraduate student in the Frank Lab. She is a Biology major concentrating in Plant Biology. In the lab, she is working on developing a protocol for the use of phloem-mobile fluorescent dye to visualize phloem unloading in tomato and pepper leaves. Nicole is excited to learn more about the scientific process and develop practical lab skills.

Her hobbies include mountain biking, obsessing over her house plants, and making botanical art. 


Paul Ren-Huang Chong

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Paul is an undergraduate student in the Frank Lab. He is a Plant Science major concentrating in Public Garden Management. Paul has worked on propagating interspecific tomato graft chimeras, and is currently involved in a project to characterize numerous eggplant cultivars. Outside of his studies, Paul spends his time hiking, cooking and tending to his plants. During class time, he is usually browsing the internet for deals on orchids and bromeliads.


Diego Hernandez

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Diego Hernandez is a Biology major concentrating in Plant Biology. His areas of interest include plant genetics, genetic modification, and biofortification. He is looking forward to learning valuable laboratory skills and techniques. Outside of school, he loves playing sports, staying active, dancing, and meeting new people.


Guinevere Goldberg


Baby G 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 or enjoying daycare.


Past Members


Dr. Kevin Hines

Lab Manager

Kevin graduated from Cornell University with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cell Biology with a minor focus in Plant Molecular Biology. While in the Frank Lab, Kevin helped to develop CRISPR cas-9 knockout lines in tomato.


Umair Ahsan

Post-Doctoral Resarcher

Umair Ahsan was a postdoc working on long distance RNA movement in plants. He did his Ph.D. from The University of Queensland Australia, working on molecular regulation of phase transition and flowering in avocado, mango and macadamia. His previous research work includes working at Aarhus University Denmark on Candidate gene identification in Lotus japonicus using insertional mutagenesis and genetic mapping. While his research work in BOKU Vienna Austria was focused on “virus-induced gene silencing and phenotyping for resistance against Fusarium head blight in Wheat.

Outside research, Umair enjoys playing tennis, cricket, tourism, hiking and watching TV.


Matthew Hecking

Laboratory Technician

Matthew was a lab technician helping to support and sustain research in the Frank Lab. He works on oedema formation in hybrid tomatoes and comparative leaf morphology in wild type versus GM tomatoes. Matthew completed his bachelor’s degree at Hampshire College, where he studied the chemical ecology of tobacco in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany.

Outside of the lab, Matthew enjoys experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen, is an aspiring Adirondack 46er, and is a lover of Americana and folk music traditions.

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Sophia Monroe

REU Intern

Sophia was an undergraduate BTI intern working in the Frank Lab. She was majoring in biology at the University of Scranton and will graduate in May 2020. She worked on creating a program to identify leaf veins through fluorescent microscopy and machine learning. She is excited to conduct research and learn more about the plant biology field.

Outside of the lab, Sophia enjoys cooking, hiking, and spending time with friends and family.


Jenny Probst

Summer Intern

Jenny helped set up the Frank Lab during the summer of 2018. Jenny will be completing her BS in Biology with a minor in Chemistry this December at Missouri State University. In addition to setting up the Frank lab, Jenny also helped initiate the graft incompatibility project.