Student Research Competition

Schedule for poster competition


7:15 - 7:30 Competing Poster Set-up
7:30 - 8:30 Primary Poster Judging
10:55 - 11:20 Travel Scholar Rapid-Orals

11:20 - 11:45 Texas A&M Rapid-Orals
11:45 - 12:45 Poster Session & Judging
6:00 - 8:00 Evening Social and Awards Ceremony
at The Corner Bar & Grill (Directions)



Ammani Kyanam

Ph.D. Student, Plant Breeding

Texas A&M University

“Evaluation of Effects of Trifluoromethanesulfonamide on Productivity and Seed Quality in Sorghum”

Abstract: Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) is a grain and forage crop commercially grown as a hybrid in the United States. Cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS) systems made commercial hybrid seed production feasible and split inbreds into B- (female) and R- (male) lines. In a breeding program, newly developed B-lines require additional generations of backcrossing to develop A- (cytoplasmic male-sterile) and B- (maintainer) pairs to facilitate economical hybrid seed production and inbred line maintenance. Testcross evaluation to cull B-lines that do not produce high-yielding hybrids before sterilization is beneficial. Current methods of cross-pollination are not practical in generating sufficient quantities of seed required for testing. Trifluoromethanesulfonamide (TFMSA) was found to induce temporal male sterility in maize, and shown to be applicable in field sorghum (Boerman et. al. unpublished data). We aim to evaluate the effects of TFMSA on productivity and seed quality in inbred and hybrid sorghum. For inbred line evaluation, a set of 23 random AB isocytoplasmic pairs were selected. Foliar applications of 25 mg TFMSA and deionized water were applied to male-fertile B-lines and male-sterile A-lines respectively, before flag-leaf emergence. Bagged panicles were testcrossed to two elite R-lines (R.08306 and R.07178). Preliminary comparisons of inbred line data from these A and B-lines revealed that physiological effects of TFMSA on treated inbred lines included delayed maturity, reduced plant height, and lower average seed weight. The quantity of seed produced is sufficient for multi-location hybrid evaluation in summer 2019, demonstrating TFMSA’s possible application in reducing number of B-lines needed to be sterilized.


Ranjita Thapa

Ph.D. Student, Plant Breeding

Texas A&M University

“Genome-wide association mapping to identify cold tolerance genes at seedling stage of rice”

Abstract: Rice germination and productivity is highly influenced by low temperature. The optimum temperature for rice germination is 30°C. Temperature lower than 30°C is detrimental for germination and uniform plant stand. Germination of rice under cold temperature is slow and not uniform resulting in poor germination and irregular plant stand. To evaluate the genetic basis of cold tolerance in rice, we conducted genome wide association study of 283 rice accessions using 7K markers. The experiment was conducted in a growth chamber in a controlled condition at dark condition. Different chilling indices - low temperature germinability (LTG), Germination index (GI), Coleoptile growth under cold temperature exposure (CS), Plumule length after 4 days recovery at 30°C from 13°C (PGC) and Plumule Growth Rate after cold germination (PGCG) were measured. We identified 21 and 50 significant GWAS sites associated with different chilling indices of full accessions and japonica species respectively. Out of 50 GWAS sites identified in japonica species, 8 sites were found to be colocalized with previously reported known genes. The findings of our study have provided novel information on genetic architecture of rice cold tolerance. We were able to identify highly tolerant cultivars and markers associated with cold tolerance which will be important resources in rice improvement.


April DeMell

M.S Student, Plant Pathology and Microbiology

Texas A&M University

“Genome modification using a viral vector”

Abstract: The CRISPR genome modification platform is a method for inducing double-stranded breaks in a targeted genomic sequence using the RNA programmable Cas9 endonuclease. Viral vectors provide rapid and robust heterologous gene expression tools capable of producing large quantities of RNA or protein products. Previously, we created a viral toolbox to transiently deliver the CRISPR/Cas9 components to plants in high quantities. Here, we report the use of a single Agrobacterium-launched Tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) vector expressing GFP and a single guide RNA (sgRNA) to target the highly conserved phytoene desaturase 3 (PDS3) gene across multiple diverse Nicotiana species. The vector was co-delivered with a Cas9 expression cassette and a construct expressing the Tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) RNA silencing suppressor P19, shown to increase vector expression. Three Nicotiana species were selected for further study based on a screen monitoring vector expression, lack of hypersensitivity to P19, and genetic information. In all experimental Nicotiana species, editing of PDS3 was observed, and was increased by the presence of P19. Developing flexible tools with the potential for targeted gene editing in multiple species could increase the efficiency of producing non-transgenic edited plants and be used for functional genetic screens to interrogate conserved pathways and parallel gene function.


The Texas A&M Plant Breeding Symposium will host the fifth annual Student Research Competition that will include oral and poster presentations. 

Graduate and undergraduate students conducting research in plant breeding or related sciences are encouraged to participate in either the oral or poster competitions. This event promotes and encourages students to communicate their research to their peers as well as network with a wider plant science community. Scholarships will be awarded to the top three abstracts for oral presentations and the top three posters presented at the one-day symposium.

Students may register for oral or poster presentations. Three students will be selected to present oral keynote lectures at the symposium. The remaining oral presentation abstract submissions will automatically be entered into the poster contest.


Competition Rules:

  • Presenters must be full-time student within the Texas A&M System in order to be eligible for scholarship awards.

  • Presenters must also register to be a symposium attendee.

  • Presenters must abide by the Aggie Code of Honor: "An Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate those who do."

  • Attire is a minimum of business casual.

  • All oral presenters must agree to share their research electronically.

  • All presenters should attend the post-symposium Social and Student Research Awards Ceremony at Café Eccell.

  • Students in the Graduate Student Organizing Committee are ineligible to receive scholarship awards, but may enter their research posters to receive useful feedback on their work.

Rapid Oral + Poster Presentations


Three students will be selected to present oral keynote lectures during the main symposium event. The talks will be 5 minutes in duration and will be followed with a poster session. All three students selected will receive $250 scholarships. The other applicants who were not selected to speak will automatically be entered into the poster presentation competition.

Students signing-up for the oral presentation must submit an abstract. The abstract should be informative, meaning it will feature all of the elements of your research including results. The abstract should be 250 words or less.

Criteria for selection of oral presentations for the prize-winning presentation

  • The originality of the research presented, which may or may not be explicitly related to the symposium theme

  • The quality of the writing (including clarity, grammar, and understandable)

  • The interest of the subject matter and approach

  • The suitability of the conference presentation (including appropriate length, clear results obtained, and appropriate conclusions

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee officer team will evaluate blind abstracts to select the three oral keynote speakers.


In fairness to other participants, abstracts that are over the specific word limit will automatically be disqualified.

If selected to give an oral presentation, follow the guidelines provided below:

Each oral presentation is limited to 5 minutes, with 2 additional minutes of questions and answers following each presentation. The purpose of the rapid oral is to sell your research, and have intellectual discussion during the poster session. This time restriction will be strictly enforced by the room moderator.

The oral presentation should include three presented slides and one acknowledgements/questions slide:

  1. Title slide (six words)—uses the question as the title and lists authors/co-authors and their respective institutions.

  2. Results—one slide, including figure/table. Use SI units in text, figures, and tables.

  3. Recommendations / summary slide.

  4. Acknowledgments / questions slide.

Additionally you will present a poster of your research. This is the area in which to incorporate the details of your research: methods, background, detailed results, etc...

Oral presenters will use Microsoft PowerPoint setup in a 16:9 aspect ratio. The symposia committee will upload and display your PowerPoint.

The PowerPoint slides must be submitted to the Graduate Student Organizing Committee by Monday, February 17, 2019.

Oral keynote presenters must agree to broadcast and record their lecture via webinar. Recordings of the presentations will be uploaded to the Texas A&M Plant Breeding Symposium website so that it can viewed anytime by anyone. 

Poster presentations


All students that sign-up for the poster competition will be selected to participate. Students will be required to display their research poster for the entire duration of symposium. While the students must be present during the official poster judging session to be eligible for the prizes, it is recommended that they be present also during the official poster session. The posters will be judged by a panel of plant science experts. Scholarships will be awarded in the amounts of $200, $150, and $100 for first, second, and third places respectively.

Students participating in the poster presentations must submit an abstract of 250 words. Unlike the oral presentation, these abstracts will NOT be judged by the Texas A&M Plant Breeding Symposium Graduate Committee officer team. Instead, the abstracts will be displayed online and in the event program.

All posters should include these basic elements, or their equivalents format: Abstract, Introduction, Objective, Approach, Results, and Discussions/Conclusions.

Students will have to bring their own posters to the venue on the morning of the symposium event.

Poster dimensions cannot exceed 44 x 44 inches.

Foam board and easels will be provided at the Memorial Student Center in order to display posters. Material to adhere your poster to the foam board/easel will be provided on the day of the symposium.

Students must place their poster at the assigned easel as directed by the symposium Graduate Student Organizing Committee.

Students participating in the poster competition must be in attendance during the 1 hour poster judging session at the symposium to be eligible for cash prizes. The poster judging will begin at 7:30 AM on February 21, 2019.


During the poster judging poster presenter will present their poster to the judges for 2 minutes. Following the quick, 2-minute presentation, judges will be allowed to ask questions directly to the presenter. This exchange between the author and judge will provide an additional opportunity for the development of communications skills that wasn’t available during the previous competition.

Poster presenters must submit a PDF of their poster for inclusion on the Texas A&M Plant Breeding Symposium website. Digital copies of the posters will be placed on the website so that it can be viewed anytime by anyone. The PDF copy does not have to be submitted until the day of the symposium to

Judges will not be allowed to evaluate a poster if there is a personal bias (i.e. professor judging his or her graduate student’s work).

All applicants must submit a biographical PowerPoint slide for viewing by webinar attendees. The biographical slides contain the presenter’s picture, interests and research goals. These slides will be shown during the symposium breaks. Through these slides, viewers around the world watching on the live webinar will be able to get an understanding of the scope of plant science research being conducted at Texas A&M. Presenters must follow the Bio Slide Instructions and submit their slide at the time of signing-up to