Congratulations to Brown Scholarship Recipients!



Congratulations to Brown Scholarship Recipients!

Valeria Velasquez-Zapata and Pulkit Kanodia were awarded the Brown Graduate Fellowship for 2019-2020. They are two of twelve students from across Iowa State University (ISU) to receive the award of $10,000 each. The Brown Graduate Fellowship is to be used to strategically advance ISU research in the areas of study that are governed by the Valentine Hammes Family and Leopold Hammes Brown Family Trust. These include science, agriculture, and space science. Valeria is a Bioinformatics and Computational Biology graduate student working on the molecular interactions of cereal crops and fungal pathogens using barley and powdery mildew as a model system. Pulkit is a Genetics and Genomics graduate student working on plant responses to viral infections and environmental stresses by studying their protein synthesis regulation upon infection. Both Students are housed in the Plant Pathology and Microbiology Department.

Featurette Insight look into the professional achievements of these PLPM students:

Pulkit Kanodia

Pulkit received a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering with Biotechnology as his major from Birla Institute of Technology, India. During his time at Birla Institute, he worked on a research project involving the identification of miRNAs in wheat where he was a co-author for his first research publication. In addition to this publication, Pulkit published a first-author paper in the journal of mathematical archives, which demonstrated a new application of binomial and multinomial expansions. At ISU, he has co-authored a review on non-coding RNAs in plant viruses.

            Pulkit’s Ph.D. research focuses on protein synthesis mechanisms used by plants in response to environmental stresses and viral infections. He is working on stablishing a new technique known as ribosome profiling at the Miller lab. This developing technique allows for the study of genome-wide measurements on the translation efficiency of plant cells mRNA when translated under stress. Pulkit believes that understanding the pathways by which plants recuperate from these biotic and abiotic stresses can facilitate the development of more tolerant and viral-resistant plants.

            During his time at ISU, Pulkit has mentored two undergraduate students and two rotation graduate students in Dr. Miller’s research lab. Pulkit has also served as the Senator Representative for PLPM at the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) for the school year 2016-2017. Finally, Pulkit was also awarded the Print and Grace Powers Hudson Scholarship in Agriculture for the year 2017-2018, receiving a $1,000 award.

If you would like to learn more about Pulkit Kanodia’s contributions towards the scientific field, check his publications here.


Valeria Velasquez-Zapata

            Valeria is an international student from Colombia. She completed two B.Sc, degrees, including biological engineering at the National University of Colombia and biology at the University of Antioquia in Colombia. After completing her two bachelor degrees, she was awarded the Santander scholarship to a master’s degree in biomedical research at the University of Valladolid in Spain. After that, she got a Fulbright scholarship for her Ph. D. at the Iowa State University where she is currently finishing her third year in the Interdepartmental Bioinformatics and Computational Biology program. Valeria is housed in the Plant Pathology and Microbiology Department where she is working under the mentorship of Dr. Roger Wise. Her research focuses on the characterization of master immune-active protein modules of barley-powdery mildew pathosystem. She is working on the identification of host interactors of Blumeria graminis effectors using NGS Y2H screens. Her research contributes to a brand-new bioinformatic pipeline that the lab is developing for the analysis of such data and to the experimental validation of the candidate interactors. These analyses will produce a scope of the effector-triggered immune response in barley through the integration of this data with a predicted barley protein-protein interaction network.

            Besides working towards her scientific research career, Valeria has also been actively immersed in outreach and teaching activities, which have been a very rewarding experience that she intends to bring back and implement in her home country, Colombia, upon return. She has participated in the Master-gardener outreach program hosted by the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology (, and she has volunteered in different programming workshops to instruct graduate students at ISU. Furthermore, she runs the outreach events of the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Graduate Student Organization, which impacts hundreds of girls and young women every year. These outreach activities are designed to encourage girls to pursue STEM fields by participating in outreach programs like Taking the Road Less Traveled ( , Science Bound ( ) and Girls in Science ( ).


            Valeria’s success and talent has been recognized by the multiple scholarships she has received during her time at ISU. During her three years at ISU, Valeria has been awarded several scholarships; some of these scholarships include but are not limited to:

2019: Sponsorship for attendance to the CRA Grad Cohort Workshop for Underrepresented Minorities and persons with Disabilities (URMD). Computer Research Association.

2019: Sponsorship for attendance to the CRA-W Grad Cohort for Women Workshop. Computer Research Association.

2018: Bioinformatics Analysis for Conservation Genomics course. Smithsonian-Mason School for conservation scholarship.

2018: Faculty for The Future Fellowship. The Schlumberger Foundation.

2016: Iowa State University of Science and Technology. Diane Brandt scholarship.


We look forward to seeing where these two talented PLPM graduate students’ journeys takethem. Congratulations to both Valeria and Pulkit for being awarded the Brown Graduate Fellowship.