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Lab Members

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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.


Alice Gevorgyan

Research Assistant

Alice was undergraduate in the Frank lab and is now a post-bac research assistant working in the Frank lab. She majored in Plant Sciences with a concentration in Plant Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Alice is excited to take part in the research being conducted in the Frank lab and to continue her thesis work on the genetics and genomics of graft formation. 

In her free time, Alice enjoys cooking, reading, and photography. 


Jules Hart

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Jules is an undergraduate research assistant majoring in Plant Sciences. They are interested in improvement of fruit and vegetable production via a greater understanding of plant hormone action across the graft union. They are eager to learn new lab techniques as a member of the Frank Lab!

When they're not in the lab, you can find Jules exploring new study spots on campus or rollerblading!

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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! 

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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.

Kyle Griswold

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Kyle is an undergraduate research assistant majoring in Plant Sciences with a concentration in plant physiology. They’re interested in genetic engineering and bioinformatics and have a passion for Cannabis.  

Outside of the lab, Kyle likes to lift weights, do yoga, socialize, and partake in philosophical discussions. 


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

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