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Plant Pathology

Department of Plant Pathology


McSpadden Gardener Lab - People

Dr. Brian McSpadden Gardener received his PhD in Botany from Michigan State University in 1998. He began work in the field of biological control of plant pathogens as an ARS postdoctoral fellow under the guidance of Dr. David Weller. He joined the faculty at The Ohio State University in 2001 where he currently serves as an Associate Professor. He was appointed Visiting Professor and World Class University Scholar at Chonnam National University in 2009.

His research focuses on defining the diversity, population dynamics, and ecological functioning of microbial populations that colonize crop plants. Particular emphasis is given to studying plant-associated bacteria with potential for development as organically-acceptable biopesticides and biofertilizers.

Dr. Michael Joe Vaughan, Postdoctoral Researcher, received his PhD in Plant Pathology from the University of Arizona in 2012.  There, his research focused on the diversity and community structure of fungal communities in caves.  He is continuing to pursue his interests in fungal communities and microbial ecology in the lab of Dr. McSpadden Gardener, where he is investigating microbial communities associated with coffee.



Dr. Francesca Rotondo, Postdoctoral Researcher, received her Ph.D in Plant Pathology from University of Bologna in 2011.  Her research focused on characterizing Alternaria strains collected from apple orchards in northern Italy that were afflicted with a new leaf/fruit blotch disease.

From 2011 to 2012,  Dr. Rotondo worked as a postdoctoral research associate at the School of Plant Sciences, University of Arizona, in Tucson. During this period, Dr. Rotondo investigated speciation processes among closely related Alternaria taxa that differ primarily in their host associations.  In Dr. McSpadden Gardener’s lab, her research focuses on quantifying the natural distribution of populations of Cryptococcus flavescens and their genetic diversity.  This study is carried out with both traditional PCR and qPCR approaches. 

Spencer Debenport is a PhD student in the PMBB Program and the Department of Plant Pathology. His research focuses on the characterization of endophytic fungi in healthy and environmentally-stressed plant populations with the goal of identifying novel, beneficial plant-microbe symbioses. Part of his research is carried out in Tanzania.  A Missouri native, Spencer holds a BA in Biology from St. Oalf College in Minnesota.


Donald Gillis is currently an MS student in Plant Pathology.  His research focuses on the development of biological control agents and the formulation of biological pesticides. He is currently working on the formulation of a biological pesticide using Pseudomonads to utilize in a patented infield bioreactor. This research will give us a look into the biological control activity of microorganisms and more efficient ways to deliver those products to achieve maximum efficacy.

Donald is originally from Florida and earned his BS in Biology from Morehouse College in Atlanta in Spring 2013.

Dr. Sunjeong Park, Postdoctoral Researcher, received her PhD from the Environmental Graduate Studies Program at The Ohio State University. In Dr. McSpadden Gardener's lab, her research focuses on the discovery and characterization of a novel algae-based biofertilizer. She is also characterizing the effects of cover crops on rhizosphere microbial community structure and function in organic cropping systems.


Summer Students

Martina Fraga, Student assistant (Butler University)
Denzel Middleton, Summer Research Opportunity Program (Penn State)