Ben will continue his career as a post-doctoral researcher

Ben’s advice to current graduate students is to find a healthy work/life balance, learn R or another programming language, take ownership and pride in your work, and be on Science Twitter.

Ben Mansfeld, a graduating PhD student
Ben Mansfeld, a graduating PhD student

Ben Mansfeld grew up in Israel, where his family owns a small citrus orchard and papaya plantation. Originally, Ben wanted to be an industrial designer, but after not getting into any program had to rethink his career choices. After a late-night discussion about papaya male and female plants, a friend suggested he should look into plant science programs. Not aware that you could even get degrees in agricultural sciences, Ben then applied to get his B.S. in Plant Science in Agriculture from Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Agriculture. After starting the program Ben fell in love with plant science and quickly realized he wanted to continue into a Ph.D. program. He began looking at Ph.D. plant science programs in the United States and ultimately decided to come to the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University on a Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology fellowship. He had the opportunity to rotate between different laboratories to find the right fit but after starting his rotation in Dr. Rebecca Grumet’s lab he quickly decided to continue working in her group.
            His Ph.D. project focuses on a developmentally acquired disease resistance in cucumber to the pathogen Phytophthora capsici, which causes cucumber fruit rot. Fruit of some cultivars of cucumber become resistant to the disease as they age. He began to concentrate his research on what makes the peels of older fruit different than younger fruits and leads to resistance. Specifically, he used genetic, genomic and metabolomic approaches to study changes in gene expression and metabolite production in the cucumber peels. Ben also created and published an R package that can perform bulk segregant analysis. Besides research, Ben is also heavily involved in many other programs and groups such as being a PBGB student representative, a member of HOGS, on a faculty search committee and recently has become an ASPB Ambassador. 
            After graduating this spring, Ben will be starting as a Postdoctoral Associate at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO, where he will continue studying plant disease resistance mechanisms. After gaining more expertise as a postdoctoral research, Ben hopes to work in academia to continue research, or to work at a plant biotechnology startup company. Ben’s advice to current graduate students is to find a healthy work/life balance, learn R or another programming language, take ownership and pride in your work, and finally be on Science Twitter. Ben concluded his graduate career by earning the 2019 Judith and Martin Bukovac Outstanding Graduate Student Award. His Ph.D. dissertation defense will be on May 7th, 2019. 


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