Research Team

Group photo of research team.
Left to right: Lee Kalcsits, Chris Sater, Bi Zheng Tan, Brenda Castaneda, Michelle Reid, Raquel Gomez, Antoinette Avorgbedor, Alexander Haase, Jessica Waite, Nadia Valverdi, Erica Casagrande Biasuz, and Orlando Howe.

Team Leader

Lee Kalcsits, Associate Professor and Endowed Chair of Environmental Physiology for Tree Fruit
Phone: 509-293-8764, E-mail:

Lee is the lab leader and joined WSU in 2014 to conduct research on environmental physiology on apple, pear, and cherry. 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 Scholar – Researchgate

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Victor Blanco, Ph.D.

Victor joined Lee Kalcsits’ tree fruit physiology lab in October 2020 as a postdoc. He is an Agricultural Engineering and M.S. in Advanced Techniques for Agricultural Alimentary Research and Development. Victor obtained his Ph.D. in Agronomy, at the Technical University of Cartagena, Spain and he was a visiting student researcher at the University of Amsterdam and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. He has focused his work on the physiological and agronomical response of fruit trees to water stress and environmental conditions. During his stay he wants to broaden his knowledge of water and nutrient uptake and distribution in fruit trees and the physiological mechanisms contributing to the development of physiological disorders in tree fruit.[row Erica Casagrande Biasuz, Ph.D. Student
Phone: 509-339-9880, E-mail:

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 November 2021, she completed her Ph.D. with Dr. Kalcsits. Her postdoctoral research will focus on understanding the contributions of water and nutrient uptake by the rootstock to physiological responses by the apple scion.


Alexander Haase, M.S. Student

Alex is from Lynnwood, Washington. He graduated with a B.S. in Integrated Plant Sciences from Washington State University in May of 2019. He was an undergraduate intern at the WSU Mount Vernon research and extension center, where he worked on assessing the effectiveness of utilizing dry matter content as a quality metric for cider apples. In August 2019, Alex began working on his M.S. in Horticulture at Dr. Kalcsits’s lab. His research will focus on identifying genotypic variation in sunburn susceptibility of apple fruit and the developmental and physiological changes that contribute to sunburn resistance.

Noah Willsea, M.S. Student


Schaefer Buchanan, Technical Assistant
Schaefer joined the lab in September 2019.  He has a B.A.Sc. in Geological Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.

Mary Smith, Technical Assistant
Mary joined the lab in July 2021 after completing her B.A. at the University of Washington in 2020.

Former Students and Staff

Postdoctoral Scholars

Nadia Valverdi (2019-2021), Postdoctoral Fellow, Chapman University, Los Angeles, CA

Jessica Waite (2018-2020), Research Geneticist, USDA-ARS, Wenatchee, WA

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

Giverson Mupambi (2015-2018), Assistant Professor, Cranberry Physiology, University of Massachusetts

Graduate Students

Nadia Valverdi, Ph.D. (2016-2019), Postdoctoral scholar, Avocado photosynthesis, Chapman University

Raquel Gomez, M.S. (2017-2019), Regional Agronomist for pistachios, California

Bi Zheng Tan, Visiting Ph.D. Student (2019), Ph.D. student, University of Tasmania. Ph.D. Project: Optimising Nutrient Management for Improved Productivity and Fruit Quality in Apples

Michelle Reid, M.S. (2017-2019), Marketing Specialist, CMI Orchards, Wenatchee, WA

Corina Serban, M.S. (2016-2018), ITT Extension Specialist for little cherry disease, 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), Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Florida

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

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

Undergraduate Students

Orlando Howe (2018 -2020), Integrated Plant Sciences, Washington State University

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

Bren Castaneda (2018 -2021), Wesleyan University, Biology; Ph.D. Student at Cornell University

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), Ph.D. 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