Current Lab Members
I have the good fortune of leading the TomatoLab team. My early interest in biology and horticulture was prompted by the curious idea that one organism can recognize another and that this recognition is responsible for resistance to disease. There are fundamental mechanisms of resistance and immunity shared by humans, insects, and plants. I am also interested in application, which explains TomatoLab’s search for the perfect tomato.
My research program actively pursues novel and more efficient approaches for plant improvement that utilize genome sequence data, data-mining, and information sciences. Priorities for discovery and application include resistance to bacterial spot and bacterial canker and fruit quality. We define fruit quality by color, color uniformity, nutritional value, and taste.
In my free time I help out at Muddy Fork Farm where I am officially the farm curmudgeon (FC). I can be found on twitter at @Ohio_tomato
My goal in the Francis lab is to find ways to efficiently combine resistances to multiple diseases with the fruit quality and horticultural traits required in fresh-market tomato markets. Foliar diseases of tomato are common in hot, humid growing environments and are major challenges to tomato growers. Mixed infections of these diseases require that tomato cultivars possess multiple resistances without sacrificing yield and fruit quality. Current cultivars lack resistance to many of the important foliar diseases such as bacterial spot (Xanthomonas spp.), early blight (Alternaria spp.), and target leaf spot (Corynespora cassiicola). My research takes advantage of genomic-assisted breeding methods, including genomic selection, to combine foliar resistance genes while balancing selection for commercial fresh-market tomato traits.
Sean is interested in using wild relatives as a source of novel traits through introgression and grafting. He works with abiotic stress, fruit pigmentation and tomato rootstock genetics and breeding. Additionally, he is interested in the implementation of technology to increase the speed and efficiency of plant phenotyping.
Sean is also a scholar of the Tri-State area (Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia) history of fiddle, dance and Appalachian culture. Sean is a square dance caller, flat-footer and musician. His music and dance is heavily influenced by prominent fiddlers and callers from the Ohio River Valley such as Doc Roberts and Asa Martin, the Kessinger brothers and many others who have contributed greatly to the rich history of Appalachian fiddle and dance.
I am a visiting scholar in the Francis Lab and a Ph.D. student at the ‘Luiz de Queiroz’ College of Agriculture at the University of São Paulo (ESALQ/USP) in Brazil. For my PhD research, I am analyzing genotypic and phenotypic data derived from a diverse collection of tomatoes inoculated with Xanthomonas perforans, a major species causing bacterial spot under the tropical conditions found in Brazil. As there are no resistant commercial cultivars, this disease is a threat to tomato growing regions in my country. Combining sequencing data and accurate phenotypic data-mining in an association mapping study, I intend to identify genomic regions related to disease resistance, which can be a powerful tool in tomato breeding programs.
In my free time, I like to travel, learn new languages, and spend time with my family. I also like to practice Zumba and Spinning.