2018 Lab Group: Front row left to right: Erica Casagrande Biasuz, Brenda Castaneda, Michelle Reid, Katie Mullin, Summyya Waliullah, Nadia Valverdi, Raquel Gomez. Back row left to right: Lee Kalcsits, Ryan Mullin, Jack Gavin, Giverson Mupambi, Chloe Smytheman, Hector Camargo Alvarez

Team Leader

Lee Kalcsits, Assistant Professor: Tree Fruit Physiology
509-293-8764, E-mail: lee.kalcsits@wsu.edu
Lee is the lab leader and joined WSU in 2014 to conduct research on tree fruit physiology. Growing up in Saskatchewan, Canada, a challenging environment to grow tree fruit. However, despite these challenged, he was raised on a small fruit orchard that produced strawberries, raspberries, saskatoons (serviceberries, juneberries), sour cherries and cold hardy apples where he developed a passion for horticulture and more specifically, trees. After earning a B.S.A. in Horticulture from the University of Saskatchewan, he was introduced to research on poplar trees, a common model tree species used in tree physiology. He earned his M.Sc. in Plant Sciences from the University of Saskatchewan and Ph.D. in Forestry from the University of British Columbia as a NSERC Vanier Scholar working with poplar with an emphasis on dormancy and nitrogen fluxes, respectively. He then joined the University of Victoria as a NSERC CREATE Postdoctoral Fellow until accepting a position with WSU and back to his roots, tree fruit horticulture and physiology. Google ScholarResearchgate

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Jessica Waite, PhD
Phone: 509-293-8763, E-mail: jessica.waite@wsu.edu
Website: https://jessicamariewaite.weebly.com
Jessica came from the USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, WV where she performed research on how molecular and environmental cues influence fruit tree shape, specifically root and branch angles. Jessica received her Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Washington, where she focused on auxin signaling, and her B.S. in Plant Biology, also from the University of Washington. She is looking forward to researching how fruit acclimate to sunburn and working to understand the molecular pathways underlying this process.


Visiting Scholar

Bi Zheng Tan
Phone: 702-637-6929, E-mail: bi.tan@utas.edu.au

Bi is from Johor, Malaysia. He graduated with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with honours from University of Tasmania in Australia in December 2016. Bi’s honours research thesis was focused on “Impact of Foliar and Soil Applied Effective Microorganisms on Postharvest Fruit Quality of Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium)”. In August 2017, Bi commenced his PhD with Dr. Nigel Swarts, University of Tasmania to study how to optimise the nitrogen usage in improved apple production. After meeting Dr. Lee Kalcsits at Hort Connection conference in 2018, a 7-week research project was developed under Dr. Kalcsits guidance and he was invited to visit WSU TFREC to investigate how nitrogen and potassium fertilization affect tree’s ability to utilize calcium and the development of bitter pit.


Nadia Valverdi, PhD Student
Phone: 530-574-0546, E-mail: nadia.valverdi@wsu.edu
Nadia is from Catamarca, Argentina and graduated as an Agronomist from the Universidad Nacional de Catamarca in December 2011. Nadia came to the U.S. in 2013 with a Fulbright scholarship to start her Master’s in Horticulture with Dr. Matthew Whiting (WSU IAREC, Prosser) on “The Effects of Near-Harvest Irrigation on Sweet Cherry Fruit Quality.” Nadia finished her Master’s program in December 2015 and worked as a Research Assistant from January 1st until March 31st in Dr. Whiting’s lab. She started her PhD August 2016 with Dr. Lee Kalcsits to work on “Abiotic Stress Physiology in Apple Trees.” Nadia’s research will mainly focus on water and heat stress and how they affect root development and nutrition uptake.

Erica Casagrande Biasuz, PhD Student
Phone: 509-339-9880, E-mail: e.casagrandebiasuz@email.wsu.edu
Erica is from Caxias do Sul, Brazil. She graduated with a B.S. in Agricultural Science from the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE) in Italy. In 2016 she completed her Master’s in International Horticulture Science at the University of Bologna, Italy. During her Master’s program she also studied Plant Pathology and Biotechnology at Technical University of Munich, Germany. Her Master’s thesis was focused on “Assessment of bioassay for the prediction of apple replant disease severity”. In August 2017, she started her Ph.D. with Dr. Kalcsits. Her research focuses on understanding the link between water and nutrient uptake and distribution in apple trees.

Raquel Gomez, MS Student
Phone: 209-581-2608, E-mail: raquel.gomez@wsu.edu
Raquel comes from California’s Central Valley where she really cultivated her passion for agriculture. Upon completing a B.S. in Agricultural Studies and a B.A. in Spanish from California State University, Stanislaus in May of 2017, she joined Dr. Kalcsits’s lab in pursuit of an M.S. in Horticulture. Raquel’s research will focus on how different factors influence bitter pit incidence. She hopes to one day become a professor and extension agent.


Michelle Reid, MS, Scientific Assistant
Phone: 509-293-8810, E-mail: michelle.reid@wsu.edu
Michelle was a CAHNRS undergraduate intern in 2015. She worked on identifying fruit growth and calcium spray holding capacity of developing Honeycrisp apples. After completing her B.S. in Agricultural Technology at WSU in December 2015, she re-joined the lab as a Research Assistant in January 2016. In August 2017 Michelle began working on her Master’s in Horticulture and finished in May 2019.


Chris Sater, Research Assistant
Phone: 509-293-8754, E-mail: csater@wsu.edu
Chris joined the lab in October 2016.  She has a B.S. in Physics from Eastern Oregon University.

Orlando Howe, Technical Assistant
Email: orlando.howe@wsu.edu
Orlando joined the lab in November 2018.  He is a student at Wenatchee Valley College.

Former Students and Staff:


Postdoctoral Scholars

Sumyya Waliullah (2016-2018), Research Associate, University of Georgia

Giverson Mupambi (2015-2018), Assistant Professor, Cranberry Physiology, University of Massachusetts https://ag.umass.edu/people/giverson-mupambi


Graduate Students

Michelle Reid, MS (2017-2019), Scientific Assistant, Tree Fruit Physiology, Washington State University

Corina Serban, MS (2016-2018), Associate in Research, Cherry Breeding Program, Washington State University

Rayane Barcelos Bisi, Visiting Ph.D. Student (2017), Postdoctoral Researcher at USDA-ARS in Florida

Guilherme Locatelli, Visiting Ph.D. Student (2017), Researcher

Luca Giordani (2014-2015), Variety Manager RKGrowers, Italy

Laura Asteggiano (2014-2015), Consultant in the Horticulture Industry, Italy


Undergraduate Students

Antoinette Avorgbedor (2019, WSU CAHNRS REEU intern), Cornell University, Biological/Biosystems Engineering

Brenda Castaneda (2018 and 2019), Wesleyan University, Biology

Jack Gavin (2018), Western Washington University, Ecology

Ryan Mullin (2017 and 2018), Washington State University, Computer Sciences

Chloe Smytheman (2017 and 2018), Montana State University, Forest Sciences

Chelsea Hill (2016), Washington State University, Ag. Technology

Michelle Reid (2015), Washington State University, Ag. Technology

Olivia Schertz (2014, NSF REU Summer Student), Clemson University, Food Sciences



Katie Mullin (2015-2019), Health Care, Wenatchee, WA

Hector Camargo Alvarez (2017-2018), PhD student, University of Birmingham, England

Jordan Briggs (2015-2016), M.Ag. Program in Viticulture, Washington State University

Celeste Wheeler (2014-2015), M.S Student at Michigan State University