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Our Team

Our lab comprises of scientists, students, and technicians from seven different countries and a diverse array of educational backgrounds and experiences.

We are led by PI Dr. Ozgur Batuman in two main lab areas:

the Citrus Pathology Lab, focused on biological research of various types of plant pathogens, and the HLB Lab, focused primarily on citrus greening.

Dr. Ozgur Batuman
Assistant Professor
Principal Investigator 


Ozgur Batuman is currently an Associate Professor at the Department of Plant Pathology at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, University of Florida. His current research focuses on pathogen identification and disease management in citrus and tomato production systems.
To develop integrated pest management (IPM) in these crops, he studies plant disease etiology, pathogen biology, and epidemiology and develops novel disease management strategies.
Dr. Batuman’s current research and extension activities cover fundamental and applied aspects of citrus diseases, including Huanglongbing (aka citrus greening), citrus canker, citrus black spot, and emerging resistant-breaking viral diseases of tomato, including orthotospoviruses and tobamoviruses. He also studies plant-pathogen-vector interactions and characterizes insect-specific viruses of the vectors in these pathosystems.
Previously, he was a postdoc at the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of California-Davis, where he later worked as a Project Scientist. In California, he mainly worked on thrips population dynamics and tomato spotted wilt virus incidence in processing tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce and developed effective IPM strategies. He also identified and characterized several viruses and virus-like diseases (i.e., viroid and phytoplasma) of other vegetable crops in various countries, including the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mali, and Ghana. Dr. Batuman received his B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in plant pathology from the University of Cukurova, Turkey, and his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
His graduate studies primarily dealt with the Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation of citrus and model plants at the Volcani Center in Israel. 
Ana Redondo 
Research Coordinator/Lab Manager

Ana has more than 20 years of experience in horticulture and plant pathology sciences gained from some of the most world-class citrus laboratories around the world, and still enjoys helping to solve the challenges citrus present to the industry today.
In the Citrus Pathology Lab at SWFREC, she is involved in development, assessment, and optimization of therapeutical treatments by using various delivery techniques to control diseases and improve health of citrus trees. Her tasks involve integrated lab, greenhouse, and field work to streamline the development of potential treatments for growers. She first develops test procedures and methods and assesses the potential treatments in lab experiments that involve in vitro assays and use of lab host or small citrus plants. Later, she retests treatments on more vigorous citrus trees in greenhouse and controlled conditions.
Ana enjoys all the outdoor activities Southwest Florida offers including canoeing, hiking, camping; to her, this is the perfect place to live.
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Dr. Sanju Kunwar 
Post-Doctoral Research Associate

Sanju is originally from Nepal and received her undergraduate degree in biotechnology from Nepal’s Purbanchal University. She joined University of Florida to complete her Master’s and PhD degrees in Plant Pathology focused on the integrated field management of bacterial wilt disease in tomato. Sanju began her career as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she researched the mechanism of EFR-based resistance in transgenic tomato line against bacterial wilt disease.
Sanju has 10 years of experience in integrated field management of vegetable and fruit diseases and is heavily involved in Extension and Education, for which she conducted trainings on plant disease management of vegetable-fruit crops in different countries across southeast Asia and Africa including Nepal, Taiwan, and Rwanda. She is particularly interested in genetic improvement of vegetable crops for better quality and yield. Additionally, Sanju has a passion for science communication and teaching plant science to the public and growers. Her blog channel: teaches people about gardening, hydroponics, common garden diseases and pests as well as ways to manage them.
Her current responsibilities as a post-doctoral researcher in the Citrus Pathology program involve developing new and advanced technologies to deliver current and novel therapeutics to the citrus trees for managing citrus diseases in Florida. 
Dr. Kellee Britt-Ugartemendia 
Post-Doctoral Research Associate


Kellee is a Floridian, born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Plant Science with a specialization in plant pathology at the University of Florida (Gainesville) in the Spring of 2014. She moved across the U.S. to complete her Master of Science in Plant pathology at University of California at Davis in the Fall of 2017 and joined the citrus pathology lab for a PhD in Plant pathology at UF (expected, Fall 2021) Her PhD program was focused on viruses in Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) populations in Florida to better understand potential biological control options for Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas), the bacterial pathogen of Huanglongbing (HLB).
As a post-doc, Kellee's principal duties and responsibilities include working on various pathogens infecting economically important plants or insects in Florida by developing novel and reliable detection methods with PCR, RT-PCR, qPCR, LAMP, RPA and CRISPR-based relevant techniques. She focuses on identifying and characterizing new or emerging pathogens of citrus and their insect vectors (i.e., Asian citrus psyllid (ACP), aphids, whiteflies, etc), and gene expression profile (i.e. metagenomics, high throughput sequencing) of these hosts. She also works on the bioinformatic aspects of various ongoing projects in the Citrus Pathology program at SWFREC.
In her spare time, Kellee enjoys hiking and trying new cuisines, as well as traveling to new places to learn different cultures. 
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Lauren Fessler
Graduate Student

Lauren completed her bachelor’s degree in Biological and Plant Sciences in 2017 from Cornell University. She then worked as a lab technician at Cornell working with Aspergillus flavus before becoming a Research Associate in the Plant Sciences Department at the University of Tennessee from 2018 to 2023 where her work centered on utilizing technology to manage nursery and orchard crops. Lauren then came to SWFREC and joined the Citrus Pathology Lab during the summer of 2023. She anticipates graduating with her Master of Science in summer 2025.

Her current research projects focus on identifying control methods for bacterial pathogens of citrus. Additionally, Lauren plants to monitor citrus pathogens for oxytetracycline resistance.

In her free time, Lauren enjoys reading, sewing, and exploring all that Southwest Florida has to offer.


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Jean - Yves Berisse 
Agricultural Assistant

Jean-Yves is a Haitian national who realized the value of agriculture early in his life. He received his bachelor's degree in agricultural sciences at EARTH University, Costa Rica 2017. After graduating from EARTH, he moved to Haiti, where he worked for more than one year at a private company as an agricultural agent for the Nippes department. Jean-Yves worked close to small-sized farmers, training them on new farming techniques for efficient and sustainable sorghum production.
In June 2019, he moved to SWFREC to work as a research assistant at Dr. Qureshi's entomology lab until December 2020, where he participated in studies related to the management of the Asian citrus psyllid. He also developed skills in rearing insect colonies, such as lacewings and lady beetles. From January 2021 to December 2022, he continued to complete his Master of Science in Entomology and Nematology Department, also at UF, under the supervision of Dr. Jawwad Qureshi at his SWFREC lab, Immokalee, FL. His research was focused on the incidence and management of the Asian citrus psyllid, Diaphorina citri Kuwayama, in high-density citrus plantings.
In January 2023, Jean-Yves became a member of the citrus pathology lab. His work in the HLB Lab of Citrus Pathology evolved from overseeing general greenhouse maintenance and ongoing experiments, focusing on scouting plants for pest control, rearing ACP for experiments purposes, sampling, and processing samples for DNA analysis. He also assists in field experiments, data collection, and chemical applications.
Jean-Yves is also interested in evolving technologies in agriculture as he envisions its use to upscale small-sized farming. In his free time, Jean-Yves enjoys exploring the web to discover the latest technological advancements and likes to cook national and Latino dishes.
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Selin Boga 
International Graduate Intern 

Selin originally from Turkey. Selin completed her undergraduate degree at Istanbul Medeniyet University, department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, in 2023. During his undergraduate education, she represented Istanbul Medeniyet University in the EMBS (Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society) branch of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), an international student club. Selin, who previously worked on bioplastic production from microalgae, joined Batuman laboratory as a research scholar in October 2023.
Currently, Selin is working on citrus diseases such as citrus greening and citrus tristeza virus in the HLB laboratory. During these studies, she learns various techniques such as sampling, chopping, DNA and RNA extraction, and types of analysis. At the same time, she is gaining field work and greenhouse experience.
Selin is happy to gain new experiences and take part in different projects in this process.
In addition, Selin enjoys swimming, camping, and dancing in her free time.
Fetchina Gereus 
Laboratory Assistant

Fetchina’s studies in agriculture began when she was awarded a full scholarship from the Kellogg Foundation to attend EARTH University in Costa Rica. She graduated in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Science. Since then, Fetchina’s professional life has been centered around agriculture, food processing, small farm activities, community development, and management.
She is a co-founder of the Youth Association for Sustainable Development in Haiti, an initiative that gave her the opportunity to help a group of people in need as well as learn from them.
Currently, Fetchina is working on citrus greening, citrus black spot, and citrus canker activities in the HLB lab. She will also be involved in diagnosing diseases, monitoring disease progress and severity, assessing efficacity of treatments and pesticide applications, pest handling, field trial set up, sampling, data analysis, and other activities related to HLB (Huanglongbing/Citrus Greening). 
Fetchina is enthusiastic about this new experience and being able to help that with different projects in the lab. 
Lab Alumni

Nico Tezna Triana, former agricultural technician

Samantha Gebben, former Biological Scientist

Marissa Penquinney, former summer 2021 intern

Martha Silva, former research technician

Manali Motghare, former Post-Doc

Jessica Tores Valez, former PhD student

Kseniya Chumachenko, former Biological Assistant

Salih Yilmaz, former PhD Student

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