Ayesha Siddiqui

Researching grey mold resistance in cultivars of Solanaceae species while at UC Davis.

Ayesha Siddiqui, UAF doctoral scholar in botany, presents at her USPCAS-AFS exit seminar.
Ayesha Siddiqui, UAF doctoral scholar in botany, presents at her USPCAS-AFS exit seminar.

Ayesha Siddiqui, UAF doctoral scholar in botany, presents at her USPCAS-AFS exit seminar.

Ayesha Siddiqui, UAF doctoral scholar in botany, presents at her USPCAS-AFS exit seminar.

Ayesha Siddiqui is a doctoral student in botany at the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. Her doctoral research focuses on medicinal plant varieties found in the Soon Valley, near the Salt Range in Punjab.

When she came to Davis for her six-month exchange visit, Ms. Siddiqui didn’t know what she would focus on during her time on campus. At UAF, she had undertaken quite a bit of research already, investigating the environmental factors and soil quality issues that affect the plant family Solanaceae. However, she had to leave her research samples at UAF and wasn’t sure where her research would progress. After conferring with Dr. Dan Kliebenstein, her USPCAS-AFS mentor and a researcher in the UCD Department of Plant Sciences, Ms. Siddiqui found herself embedded in a pilot project studying Solanaceae plants which are related to her original line of inquiry.

The study looked at various cultivars of tomatoes (solanum lycopersicum), eggplants (solanum melongena), and peppers (capsicum annuum), working to find genetic diversity within the cultivars so as to determine which species showed greater resistant to grey mold (botrytis cinerea), a necrotrophic fungi that affects a multitude of plants both in the fields and during postharvest.

“We grew these plants under controlled environmental conditions at the lab, and then cultivated ten different isolates of the Botrytis Cinerea for our trial. After growing the grey mold on our growth plates, we diluted it with grape juice down to approximately 40 spores per microliter,” stated Ms. Siddiqui during her USPCAS-AFS exit seminar. The leaves from her sample Solanaceae cultivars were then infected with the gray mold, and growth progress was digitally photographed after every 24-hour interval.

Ms. Siddiqui then used her photographs to digitalize the growth patterns of the fungal lesions, providing a significant amount of usable statistical data on the fungal growth rates between comparable Solanaceae cultivars. She was able to do this with the help of R, a statistical language used for graphical techniques and statistical methodology.

Ms. Siddiqui’s preliminary results showed that the same isolates of grey mold would grow much differently depending on the Solanaceae species on which they were isolated. She found that eggplant varieties as a whole were more resistant to the grey mold than her selected varieties of tomatoes or peppers.

During her exit seminar, Ms. Siddiqui was effervescent about her experience in Dr. Kliebenstein’s lab, and specifically thanked Dr. Celine Caseys for her assistance in the experimental study. “I have two mentors,” she said. “One is Dan, and the other is Celine, because she is such a great and talented person, and a very kind human being.”

Dr. Caseys returned the compliment. “Ayesha did a lot of good work in her six months, because we had a lot to go over. Of course, we have a lot of equipment that is not available in Pakistan, so we tried to give her the opportunity to work with a lot of equipment and techniques that she had not been able to access. We also gave her some research projects—while it wasn’t exactly what her PhD research was on, it is what we work on in the lab and we thought the exposure to the techniques would help her expand her research back home.”

Ms. Siddiqui also had some comments about the USPCAS-AFS exchange experience and her fellow doctoral students: “We came here as a group, but we are leaving here as a family—it is really true.”

Dr. Jim Hill, the Director of USPCAS-AFS, echoed that statement: “I think that sentiment is absolutely critical—this group of scholars, along with their faculty colleagues who have been to Davis, will be the Champions of Change at your university. Change is not easy. If you go back as a unit, as the Champions of Change, I think you can have a big impact.”

The U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies (USPCAS) is educating and training the next generation of scientists, engineers, and policy makers through innovative academic programs crucial for Pakistan’s development in agriculture and food security. Through applied research, academia-industry collaboration, and policy formation, USPCAS enhances Pakistan’s economic growth and prosperity. USPCAS was made possible by support from the American people through United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Profile written by Levi McGarry.