Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Mycotoxin Prevention and Applied Microbiology Research » Docs » New Scientists

New Scientists
headline bar

MPM Welcomes 

Dr. Joseph Opoku - Research Plant Pathologist

Dr. Joseph Opoku obtained his BSc. in Agriculture Science from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana, and an MPhil in Crop Science from the University of Ghana. He received his Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). His Ph.D. research centered on how interactions of stink bugs and Fusarium affect mycotoxin contamination in corn. He is the current vice-chair of the mycotoxicology committee of the American Phytopathological Society. He worked as a post-doc at the USDA Aflatoxin Biocontrol Lab in Tucson, AZ, where he focused on the ecology and population dynamics of aflatoxigenic and non-aflatoxigenic Aspergillus flavus in soil. He has joined the MPM Unit as a Research Plant Pathologist. His passion is to conduct research that ensures sustainable agriculture, food safety, and food security. He is interested in investigating the factors that influence mycotoxin contamination of crops. His overarching goal is to conduct research that contributes to practices and policies improving crop production systems. Thus, providing information to educate farmers, institutions, industries, and other stakeholders about the most cost-effective and environmentally sound strategies for mitigating plant diseases and their associated mycotoxins.

Gloria Iriarte-Broders -  Biological Science Laboratory Technician

Gloria is a plant geneticist by training and a mostly self-taught bioinformatician with over 18-year experience conducting laboratory, data analysis and field research. She received her B.S. from the University of Tolima, Ibague, Colombia and completed the course work for two M.S at the University of Guelph, ON Canada and University of New Hampshire, NH US.  Gloria is working in Dr. Joseph Opoku's lab.

Lisa McCormick - Biological Science Laboratory Technician for the ARS Culture Collection

Lisa McCormick received her B. S. in Crop Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2005) and her M. S. in Genetics from Iowa State University (2007) where she developed a high-throughput method using a microbial biosensor for evaluating corn stover feedstocks for ethanol production. She also worked as an Associate Scientist for Syngenta Seeds in their Trait Development group conducting field research trials on GM corn and soy products.

Dr. Briana Whitaker - a Research Microbiologist

Dr. Whitaker received her PhD in Ecology from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN in 2018 where she studied the ecology of phyllosphere microbiota in both agricultural and wild plants. Dr. Whitaker completed a post-doctoral position at North Carolina State University from 2018-2020 where she studied the landscape ecology of foliar fungi in wheat, corn, soy, and switchgrass crop hosts. Her work in this system combined large-scale field campaigns to culture and identify fungi living in leaves, next generation sequencing of foliar fungi from field sites located across diverse soil and climate types of North Carolina, and plant physiology measurements to better understand the links between plant health and microbiome communities in North Carolina crops. At NCAUR, Dr. Whitaker will be responsible for identifying effective inoculation mechanisms, in the lab and field, for plant growth promoting microbiota in wheat and barley and will additionally work to enable farmers to use these microbial partners to fight Fusarium Head Blight and other diseases in small grain hosts.

Dr. Kirk BrodersCurator of the ARS Culture Collection

Kirk Broders is a plant pathologist with training in mycology and microbial ecology. He received his BSc. in Biology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2004) and his PhD in Plant Pathology from The Ohio State University (2008) where he studied the ecology and epidemiology of soilborne pathogens of corn and soybean. Dr. Broders completed a post-doctoral research position at the University of Guelph from 2009-2010 where he studied the population genetics and ecology of invasive plant pathogens. Dr. Broders was a faculty member at the University of New Hampshire from 2010-2014 and Colorado State University from 2014-2018 where his research focused on the ecology, evolution and epidemiology of plant pathogens in both forested and agricultural ecosystems. Prior to joining the ARS he was a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama where he was studying the role of fungal and oomycete pathogens in driving tree species diversity in the tropics. In his position as the Curator of the NRRL Dr. Broders will be responsible for managing the ARS Culture Collection and will work to increase collaborative efforts between the collection and other units at the National Agricultural Utilization Research Center as well as researchers from other ARS units, Universities and industry.​

Dr. Hye-Seon Kim - Biologist (Computational/Bioinformatics)

Hye-Seon received her B.S. in Applied Biology and Microbiology from Chungnam National University in South Korea, her M.S. in Biotechnology from Seoul National University, and her Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the Pennsylvania State University. In 2016, she began a post doc at NCAUR and studied the distribution and identification of genes responsible for biosynthesis of mycotoxins and other secondary metabolites in the genus Fusarium. Currently, she works on multi-omics studies to develop novel solution to Fusarium mycotoxin contamination problems. The goals of her are to determine the genetic and metabolic diversity of mycotoxigenic fungi and to elucidate critical components of the molecular interaction between the fungi and their plant hosts. She uses computational biology, bioinformatics, comparative genomics, and molecular biology approaches to achieve these objectives.

Paige Pierson - Chemical Laboratory Technician

Paige Pierson is a technician working with Dr. Michael Appell. She is from Southern Missouri and earned her Bachelor's degree in Biochemistry from Augustana College. In 2017 she joined the NRRL Culture Collection while working to complete her Master's degree in Biochemistry at Bradley University. She then returned to MPM in 2020.

Nathan Kemp – Biological Science Laboratory Technician

Nathan is from Northern Illinois and earned his Bachelor’s degree from Knox College with a double major in Biology (Focus in Ecology and Ecosystem Functions) and Environmental Studies. He began his work with the USDA in 2017 working as a Gypsy Moth Trapping Technician for APHIS-PPQ. From there, Nathan worked at NCAUR as an ORISE appointee from mid-2018 until early 2020.  He recently started his new federal position with MPM where he works with Dr. William Hay.

Dr. William Hay – Research Plant Physiologist

Will received his B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology from the University Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois in Physiological and Molecular Plant Biology. He joined ARS in 2015 as a Post Doc in the Plant Polymer research unit, studying the production of novel amylose-inclusion complexes. In 2018, he joined the Mycotoxin Prevention and Applied Microbiology research unit as a Post Doc, studying wheat climate resilience and resistance to Fusarium head blight. His research focus is the impact of elevated CO2 on plant primary metabolism, crop production,  disease susceptibility, and grain end-use quality.