Dr. Laura Shannon

Dr. Shannon is an assistant professor of potato breeding, genetics, and genomics in the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota. She is a population and quantitative geneticist by training and she applies that experience to elucidate potato diversity and the complex nature of autotetraploid genomics as well as developing new potato varieties for Minnesota growers. She earned an undergraduate degree in biology and anthropology at Grinnell College and a PhD in genetics from the University of Wisconsin. Her post doctoral research was done in the department of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell and the Department of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin. She enjoys overly complicated board games, bird watching, and exploring the theater, fashion, and breweries of her new home in the Twin Cities. For a list of Dr. Shannon's publications, click here.

Dr. Thomas Stefaniak

Dr. Stefaniak is a Researcher 6, Breeding Specialist in the Department of Horticulture. He is a plant breeder by training focusing on the development of new high yielding cultivars with improved disease tolerance and better quality. Thomas earned his B.A. from Michigan State University majoring in humanities, and his graduate degrees from the University of Kentucky majoring in Crop Science, minoring in plant physiology. He completed his education as a post-doctoral researcher at Texas A & M. Crops that Thomas has worked with throughout his career include soybean, melon, dry bean, tobacco, bermudagrass, sorghum, pea, lentil, chickpea, and now potato. Thomas enjoys tennis, exercise, reading, and streaming movies and television.

Husain Agha

Picture of Husain in the field
Husain is a PhD student in the Plant & Microbial Biology program studying plant quantitative and population genetics and is currently investigating the consequences of whole genome duplication. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Humanities at the University of Missouri in 2018. When he is not in the lab, you can find him rock climbing or out on his bicycle! Husain is passionate about improving diversity, equity, and inclusion of underrepresented minorities in the sciences, and currently serves as a member of his graduate program's DEI committee. To find out more about Husain's research, click here.

John Larsen

John Larsen is a researcher in Shannon Lab, and graduate of the University of Minnesota who majored in History, with a focus on the weaponization of food. John’s duties in the lab consist of managing and running Shannon Lab's tissue culture bank, greenhouse planning and management, and is the lab’s in-house cider maker. In his free time, John likes to read, play and listen to music, and talk your ear off when it comes to craft cider.

Nicole Mihelich

Nicole is a Ph.D. student and is currently co-advised by Dr. Eric Watkins in Turfgrass Breeding and Genetics and Dr. Laura Shannon in Potato Breeding and Genetics. She earned a B.S. in Biochemistry with a minor in Environmental Science at University of Wisconsin- Madison. She then earned her M.S. in Applied Plant Science studying soybean genomic variation. She is currently researching how to improve fine fescue cool season grass species as a low-input turfgrass, specifically for rhizome production and tillering.

Heather Tuttle

Heather is working toward her Master's degree in the Biomedical Informatics and Computational Biology program and is currently developing a core germplasm subset for the US potato genebank. While Heather is not in the lab, she enjoys going on walks around the city lakes, going to concerts, and collecting rocks and minerals.

Megan Harder

Megan joined the lab in 2021 as a researcher. Her primary role is in data management, curating the "potatobase" and analyzing the lab's data. She also helps keep things organized as the lab's project manager. Megan is a neophyte to plant breeding, having received her B.A. in Geology from Carleton College where she completed a senior thesis in metamorphic petrology. In her free time, Megan enjoys baking, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, writing, and thrifting.

Muyideen Yusuf

Yusuf is a PhD student in the Applied Plant Sciences program studying breeding and molecular genetics. He is currently evaluating strategies for inbred development from potato diploid population. He earned his M.S. in Plant Genetics from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He loves reading, making jokes, traveling, and making new friends.

Dr. Xiaoxi Meng

Xiaoxi is a post-doc in Shannon Lab. She earned her B.S. in plant pathology and entomology at Nanjing Agriculture University in China and Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular biology from Mississippi State University where she studied protein post-translational modifications, gene function, and QTL mapping in rice. She joined the lab after completing a post-doc at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she involved research aspects on machine learning classification and comparative genomics of grasses species including maize, sorghum, and seteria. In the Shannon Lab, Xiaoxi is studying dihaploid potatoes; and GWAS on morphological traits. For a list of Xiaoxi's publications, click here.

Jessi Huege

Formerly an undergrad with the lab, Jessi is now a Researcher. She enjoys working with plants and learning to better understand the physiology and development of plants. In her free time, she likes to garden and create botanical illustrations.


Julia Lau

Julia is a senior majoring in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering with a focus in Ecological and Environmental Engineering. She is currently working as a Greenhouse and Lab Assistant with the Shannon Lab and loves plants and is interested in how plants alter the soil and affect the environment. In her free time, she loves hiking, marching band, and spending quality time with her friends.

Ian Spencer

Ian is majoring in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior with an interest in Marine Biology. He is interested in how plants and organisms interact with each other and how they affect the surrounding ecosystem. In his free time he enjoys playing musical instruments, building metal and wooden model kits, and playing games with friends.

Dat Vo

Dat is a Senior Majoring in Biology with an interest in horticulture. He is interested in the processes of plant growth and development. In his free time, he enjoys cooking Vietnamese cuisine, going to the gym, and building computers.

Miranda Gregory

Miranda is a freshman intending to major in Biology, Society, and Environment (BSE) with interest in the health care field. In her free time, she enjoys kayaking, backpacking, and hiking. She also loves to make sustainable meals and develop new baking recipes!

Ena Vigil

Ena is a junior majoring in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management with interest in wildlife and nature as a whole. She is interested in studying ecosystems and the wildlife interactions within different spheres as well as finding solutions to complex questions pertaining to climate change. Her hobbies include: spending time with her pets, reading, singing and doing theatre, watching movies, and trying new restaurants!