Sarachek Fellowship Award Recipient
Ismael E. Badillo-Vargas
Ismael E. Badillo-Vargas is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Plant Pathology working under the guidance of Dr. Anna E. Whitfield. His research focuses on understanding the molecular basis of the interaction between Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) and its most efficient insect vector, Frankliniella occidentalis. TSWV is one of the most devastating plant viruses known and it is transmitted plant-to-plant by tiny insects commonly known as thrips. Ismael characterized the proteome of thrips and studied the response of thrips to the virus to identify insect molecules that respond to virus infection or that may play a role in antiviral defenses. He is also studying the thrips proteins that directly interact with TSWV particles during entry to, replication in, and spread through the insect vector’s body. Furthermore, Ismael is developing RNA interference (RNAi) tools to conduct functional assays with thrips. His research will provide farmers with novel strategies to control plant viruses transmitted by insects and scientists with new research tools to further understand TSWV-Frankliniella occidentalis interactions.
Prior to coming to Kansas State University, Ismael received a bachelor’s degree in Crop Protection from the University of Puerto Rico – Mayagüez, his home country, and a master’s degree in Plant Pathology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. At K-State, Ismael earned a 3.9 GPA and he has been awarded the Timothy R. Donoghue Graduate Scholarship, the K-State Ecological Genomics Graduate Fellowship, and the Tillman Family Agriculture Graduate Student Enhancement Award. Additionally, Ismael has received a K-State Arthropod Genomics Center Travel Award, an NSF-funded Ecological Genomics Travel Fellowship, and a United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Predoctoral Grant.
Ismael will use the Sarachek Fellowship to support future postdoctoral research and professional development. He plans to attend a proteomics workshop in Cold Springs Harbor Laboratories, New York, and the X International Symposium on Thysanoptera and Tospovirus in Brazil. The fellowship will also help Ismael relocate to Europe to begin postdoctoral research.