Ullman Laboratory Research and Mission

Ullman Laboratory Research and Mission

The Ullman Lab is currently pursuing research in support of an AFRI NIFA funded coordinated agricultural project entitled Advancing Innovative Technologies And Integrated Strategies For Sustainable Management Of Thrips-Transmitted Tospoviruses. The overall research focus of the Ullman laboratory lies in insect/virus/plant interactions and the development of management strategies for insect-transmitted plant pathogens. Dr. Ullman was hired to conduct research in this area with a specific mandate to foster multidisciplinary, cross divisional, collaborative efforts. Consequently, the lab has many collaborations that are both national and international in scope. The specific goals of the Ullman research program are to expand our knowledge of insect vector/pathogen interactions on a cellular level, determine how these interactions influence the epidemiology and management of diseases caused by insect transmitted pathogens, and to understand mechanisms of host plant resistance to insect vectors and virus transmission. Research questions addressed have necessitated investigations using a variety of insect vector species including thrips, aphids, leafhoppers, whiteflies, and mealybugs, within several plant virus systems - tospoviruses, citrus tristeza virus, potato leafroll virus, curlytop virus. Research approaches have varied from basic studies in the laboratory to more applied investigations in the field. In general, the short-term goal of these investigations is to elucidate the inter-relationships of plants, plant pathogenic viruses, and their insect vectors. The long-term goal of the program is to translate advances in our understanding of these relationships into technologies and methodologies that can be applied in novel strategies for preventing epidemics of insect transmitted pathogens.

Ullman Laboratory Staff

Sulley K. Ben-Mahmoud is a post-doctoral researcher and lab manager in the Ullman lab. His current research interests revolves around the Western flower thrips, Frankliniella occidentalis, and its interactions with Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) and the various host plants that it vectors the virus to. His active research work includes elucidating the roles of abundantly expressed genes in the salivary gland of thrips, some of which are altered in expression in TSWV-infected thrips. He is also involved in characterizing the feeding and oviposition preferences of thrips to tomato lines bred to exude acylsugars that are repulsive to thrips and other insect pests. Sulley received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in entomology in 2013, where he worked on a citrus pest, Diaprepes abbreviates, to characterize a recombinant gut digestive enzyme, Cathepsin L1, and evaluated transgenic citrus rootstock engineered to express a Bacillus thuringiensisinsecticidal toxin against the pest. His experience encompasses working on mosquitoes: Anopheles gambiae, and Aedes agypti; the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri, and the diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella.  Sulley also holds a B.Sc. in Biochemistry and an M.Phil. in Entomology from the University of Ghana.  

Norma Ordaz is a graduate student in Plant Pathology. She received her BS in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UC Davis. Her interests include understanding the circadian rhythm of thrips and how it relates to TSWV transmission, and optimizing TSWV transmission techniques. 

Michelle Early is the Program Coordinator for Diane Ullman’s AFRI NIFA Coordinated Agricultural Project. She received her BS in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology at UC Davis in 2004 and MS in Biology From Sonoma State University.