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Welcome to the Friesen Lab Website

Our research interests lie at the interface of ecology and evolution. How do the molecular and physiological pathways of organisms shape their ecology, and how does selection imposed by interactions with other organisms and the environment ultimately shape their genomes?


Cody Bekkering


Cody is a new laboratory technician working to test root software developed in the Friesen lab and compare it to both published root measuring software and hand measurements. In addition, he will be working with multiple different programs to determine minimum image quality requirements for several different root measuring programs.

Cody is a recent graduate from Michigan State University. He graduated with a B.S. in Plant Biology, and B.A. in Chemistry, and a minor in mathematics. He enjoys biking and competitive gaming, and his recent trip to China (imaged above) has shown him the joys of travelling.

Science Role Models

Last semester, I was struck by a remark Jim Tiedje made during PubClub about a well-regarded scientist he knew who worked in a not-so-great lab but who had identified a top scientist in his field and emulated him/her.  By adopting the character traits of an admired scientist, the implication goes,  we can ourselves become better scientists. This reminded me of Rob Pennock’s Scientific Virtues project, which through surveys has identified the traits that scientists admire in our culture.

To kick off the new year, I asked everyone in my lab to submit a brief writeup of one of their science role models and reflect on how his/her traits enabled their scientific achievements. Many selected a former advisor, while others chose someone established in their field or someone famous they admired. Recurrent virtues included: Skepticism, Rigor, Loyalty, Hard work, Communication Ability, Caring, Curiosity, and Risk-taking. Many highlighted the importance of training students and postdocs and creating opportunities in science for those with diverse backgrounds.

The Friesen Lab’s Scientific Role Models: Catharina Coenen; Rosie RedfieldMary SeelyScott Peck; Jack Webster; Joan Strassmann; Lisa Donovan; Thomas Kuhn; David Arora; Alfred Wegener; Kathleen Rubins

To try to emulate our role models (and because Aaron Garoutte, Sheril Kirshenbaum and I are running a “Communicating Science” seminar this spring!) one of my 2017 resolutions is to write a post on this website every week–and my lab is going to hold me to it!

Friesen Lab is Trying sciNote, an Open Source Electronic Lab Notebook

We are trying sciNote, a promising new electronic lab notebook that was a Kickstarter Project in fall 2015. One of the coolest things about it is that it is open-source — and it is being actively developed. Maren spoke with the folks there about the future and they’re working on integrating with Office (so that you can edit files directly inside the platform) and on developing a real database for samples. We’d love to see the Chado schema for stocks and natural diversity integrated…



In the meantime, several labmembers are trying this out before we decide whether to switch entirely from paper!

Check out sciNote for yourself here (the 1Gb plan is free): sciNote Open source Electronic Lab Notebook

Note: Through their PIs program, by posting this link we are getting the upgraded storage (100Gb) for free.

New Friesen lab paper out in the ISME Journal

Jeff and Maren’s new perspectives paper about exoenzyme production by free-living diazotrophs is available online in the ISME Journal! The paper is open access and can be viewed at the link below:


This paper lays out the conceptual basis for a lot of the experiments we’re conducting in association with our EAGER grant (info on that here).

George Davis


George joined the Friesen lab in Fall 2015 as a technician.  He facilitates greenhouse experiments and serves as a support to graduate students and post-docs.

George graduated from North Carolina State University in 2010 with a B.S. in mathematics. After working in finance for 2 years, he began working at various production greenhouses and taking courses in horticulture and plant science.  He moved to Lansing, MI in the fall of 2015 and began working at the Friesen Lab.

When not in the lab, he is mountain biking, being a landlord, drinking beer at Eagle Monk brewery, gardening or eating durian fruit.

Maddy Rabbitt



Maddy is an undergraduate student in her junior year at Michigan State University.  She is currently pursuing a B.S. in Microbiology.  She hopes to attend dental school in the near future and have a career in Orthodontics or Oral Surgery.

In her free time, Maddy participates in the Michigan State Equestrian Team where she rides hunt seat, and is in training to take over the Treasurer position in her Senior year.  Maddy also participates in the preprofessional society of Alpha Epsilon Delta.

Lab Photo! Summer 2016


L2R: Jeff Norman, Maren Friesen, Chandra Jack, George Davis, Shawna Rowe, Emily McLachlan, Carissa Zielinski, Colleen Friel, Ellie Siler, Kamyra Rodgers, Alan Bowsher, Ellen Garcia, Prateek Shetty, Maddy Rabbitt, Jeff Bond

Aaron Garoutte


Aaron Garoutte graduated from Hope College in 2006 with a B.A. in Biology. He received his PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Michigan State University where he was advised by James Tiedje. Aaron’s PhD work included the use of metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to study the microbial community associated with bioenergy crops Switchgrass (Vanicum virgatum), Miscanthus (Miscanthus gigantus) and Corn (Zea mays).

He joined the Friesen lab in Fall 2016 where he will work as bioinformatician. Aaron is jointly advised by Dr. Kevin Childs.

Alan Bowsher


Alan joined the lab in June 2016 as a post-doctoral research associate, and is working on root transcriptome analyses for both the Trifolium and the Switchgrass projects.  His interests lie in plant adaptation to soil fertility gradients, responses to abiotic stress, and plant-soil-microbe interactions in the rhizosphere. Alan is also conducting experiments for collection of root exudates from switchgrass seedlings, as well as examining the influence of Nitrogen X Microbiome interactions on physiology, performance, and transcriptomics in switchgrass.

Alan completed a B.S. in Biology at Ohio Northern University in 2010, and Ph.D. from the University of Georgia in 2015, where he focused on root structure and function in relation to fertility gradients.