Cullen Dixon is a PhD Candidate in the Translational Plant Science program. He received his bachelor’s degree in Plant Science – Plant Genetics and Biotechnology option from The Pennsylvania State University in 2019, of which he graduated Cum laude with a minor in Plant Pathology.
Cullen’s research aims to identify the genetics underlying increased insect herbivory resistance of North American grapevine species over European species. His work involves studies to determine feeding preference of insects between Vitis labrusca (North American) and Vitis vinifera (European) grapevine to discover defense mechanisms leading to the aversion of feed upon V. labrusca plants. Secondly, Cullen is conducting transcriptomic studies of insect herbivory-stressed versus non-stressed V. labrusca and V. vinifera to identify insect herbivory defense candidate genes and will perform CRISPR to validate candidate gene functions. Further, he is studying a gene family which we hypothesize confers insect herbivory resistance which is found in greater copy numbers in wild versus cultivated grapevine cultivars, perhaps providing heightened resistance.