Category Archives: Lab Members

Cody Bekkering


Cody is a 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 and to summarize the capabilities of available root image analysis programs to the community.

This summer, Cody will be working on a project that determines the effects of nitrogen inputs and environmental conditions on the growth of switchgrass, a biofuel crop.

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.

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.

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.

Shawna Rowe


Image taken at the International Society for Microbial Ecology 2016. Shrubbery name unknown.

Shawna is a PhD student in the Department of Plant Biology performing research in the Friesen lab. She started her PhD during the summer of 2015 and is interested in how leguminous plants recognize differential nitrogen fixing abilities in rhizobia and how they distribute resources accordingly. Additionally, she is fascinated by how the microbiome influences the symbiotic relationship, specifically instances of rhizobial cheating. Evolution, biochemistry, genetics, and microbiology are all exciting topics and Shawna is excited to see where her PhD will take her in the world of research.

Additionally, Shawna enjoys hiking, camping, kayaking, baking, traveling, reading, and generally having new experiences. She currently sits as a member of the social committee for the Plant Biology graduate student association. She is an active member of BEACON: The center for evolution in action and of the Plant Biotechnology for Health and Sustainability program. She is interested in science communication and education directed at individuals who are not aspiring/ active scientists. She enjoys a casual coffee/ tea addiction.

Shawna grew up in Ozarks region of Southwest Missouri and completed a B.S. in Biochemistry with a Minor in Peace Studies at the University of Missouri. Her time at Mizzou led to her love of plant-microbe interactions. 

Chandra Jack

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Chandra Jack got her B.A in Biology at Rice University in 2005. She also received her PhD from Rice in Evolutionary Biology in the Strassmann-Queller lab where she studied cooperation, cheating, and kin recognition in the social amoeba, Dictyostelium discoideum.

She joined the Friesen lab in August 2014 as a BEACON Distinguished Postdoctoral Fellow where she is interested in studying tripartite interactions between Medicago, rhizobia, and insects to better understand rapid evolution in invasive plants.

Jeff Norman

Photo on 1-13-14 at 2.12 PM

Jeff is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Friesen Lab working on the oxygen-tolerant nitrogenase project and a Co-PI on the EAGER grant on recalcitrant N acquisition by free-living diazotrophs.  Jeff is an ecologist working at the intersection of microbiology and biogeochemistry to understand the ecosystem-level consequences of microbial metabolism in natural systems. He graduated from Virginia Tech with a BS in Biology in 2005, then worked as a lab technician in the Pilot Plant at Novozymes Biologicals until returning to Virginia Tech for graduate school in 2008.

Jeff pursued his doctorate in the Barrett biogeochemistry lab, a part of Virginia Tech’s Stream Team/Ecosystem Research Group.  There he used techniques from molecular biology, such as quantitative PCR and amplicon-based pyrosequencing, alongside field-based incubations to measure the diversity, abundance, and function, of ammonia-oxidizing microbes in temperate forest soils.  At Michigan State, Jeff is using a combination of molecular techniques, stable-isotope analyses, and culture-based screens, to study free-living nitrogen fixing microbes in both standard and exotic soil environments (including coal seam fires and volcanoes…).

When he’s not thinking about soil nitrogen cycling, Jeff is more-than-likely playing the banjo.

Check out Jeff’s personal website here

Colleen Friel

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Colleen is a Plant Biology graduate student working in the Friesen lab. Colleen earned he BS in Biochemistry at Allegheny College in Meadvile, PA. She is interested in understanding how plants and microbes trade resources in the rhizosphere. Her current projects include exploring mechanisms of partner selection in clover, characterizing genomic diversity of rhizobial populations, and mathematical modeling of the carbon-nitrogen trade between legumes and rhizobia.

She is a member of the BEACON Center for Evolution in Action, the Plant Biotechnology for Health and Sustainability program, and the Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training (BEST) program at Michigan State. After graduate school, Colleen plans to pursue a career in agricultural biotechnology focused on increasing agricultural output and sustainability through plant-microbe interactions.

Prateek Shetty

Hello there!

My name Prateek Shetty. I joined the Friesen lab in June 2013 as a graduate student. I am currently finishing up my Masters degree for which I worked on exploring the factors the impact the microbiome community structure within different Trifolium plants.

Apart from this, I am also interested in exploring questions related utilizing bacterial and algal communities towards various bioremediation and nutritional supplementation applications. In the long term I visualize using my understanding of large scale NGS datasets, microbial community structuring and basic stats with a Pasteur’ quadrant approach.

I did my undergraduate at Sir MVIT, India. It was here that I was first introduced to the immense power and challenges that accompany high-throughput NGS datasets and I grew infatuated with using bioinformatic approaches to understanding how organisms react to changes in their environment.

In my free time I like to read fiction; primarily from Sci-Fci and Fantasy genres.
My favorite authors are Issac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Brandon Sanderson, R.A.Salvatore …..