Cantu Lab at UC Davis

Department of Viticulture & Enology

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Current Cantu Lab members
Last update: June 6 2018


Dario Cantù
Associate Professor and Louis P. Martini Endowed Chair in Viticulture

2009 PhD Plant Biology, UC Davis
2004 BS-MSc Agricultural Sciences, University of Milan (Italy)

Dario is Associate Professor of Systems Biology and Louis P. Martini endowed chair in viticulture in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at the University of California Davis. He was born and raised in Milan, Italy, where he obtained both his BSc and MSc in Agricultural Sciences. Dario moved to Davis, California, in 2005 to pursue a PhD in Plant Biology at University of California, working on the interaction between Botrytis and ripening fruit. After graduating in 2009 Dario joined the laboratory of Jorge Dubcovksy, where he pioneered the use of next generation sequencing technologies to study the interaction between plants and their associated microorganisms. Since 2012 Dario has been a Faculty member in the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis, where he leads a research group that studies plant and microbial activities in a variety of contexts, from disease resistance, wood decomposition, to fruit ripening, and flavour development. Dario's Google Scholar Page and ImpactStory


Jerry Lin
PhD Student (GGHA)
Jerry is a Masters student in the Viticulture & Enology Graduate Group and a PhD student in Horticulture and Agronomy. He received his bachelor’s degrees in Genetics & Plant Biology and Molecular Toxicology at UC Berkeley. A lifelong love of plants and fungi led Jerry to pursue viticulture at UC Davis, where he joined the Cantu lab in the fall of 2015. At the Cantu lab, he is mapping viticulture and flavor traits in progenies obtained by crossing important wine grape cultivars. Jerry's Google Scholar Page


Abraham Morales-Cruz
In 2012, Abraham joined the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis to conduct research on pepper genomics, studying candidate genes in the biosynthesis of capsaicinoids. This work served as the undergraduate thesis project and final requirement to obtain his B.S. in Biotechnology Engineering at the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica. From 2013 to 2014 Abraham worked in Cantu lab as a Junior Specialist, where he was instrumental in setting up the lab, and contributed to the implementation of protocols for DNA and RNA extraction and library preparation for sequencing. In the following 3 years and 6 months he completed his Ph.D. in Horticulture and Agronomy under Dr. Cantu’s supervision, with a doctoral dissertation on comparative genomics of grapevine trunk pathogens. During his Ph.D. he developed the first genome assemblies and transcriptomes of multiple species, laying the ground work for utilizing genomics as a tool to understand how these devastating pathogens cause disease. He developed a method to correctly quantify these pathogens under field conditions using a metagenomics approach, and explored the evolutionary insights of the intra-species genomic variability of the causal agent of Eutypa Dieback. As postdoc in the Cantu lab, Abraham is now the leading bioinformatician for a project funded by MARS Incorporated, focused on the improvement on the genomic resources of the most devastating cacao disease agents in the world. Abraham's Google Scholar Page

Mélanie Massonnet
Mélanie received her undergraduate bachelor's degree in Plant Physiology from the Université François Rabelais-Tours in France. After a first year of master degree in Plant biology and biotechnologies (Bordeaux, France), she earned a master degree in Enology and Viticulture at the Institut de la Vigne et du Vin (Bordeaux, France) where she conducted research on the functional characterization of grape O-methyltransferases involved in methoxypyrazines biosynthesis in the lab of Pr. Serge Delrot. Then, she joined Pr. Mario Pezzotti’s lab (Università degli studi di Verona, Italy) where she obtained her PhD in Applied biotechnologies, carrying out the berry transcriptome comparison of ten Italian grapevine varieties using RNAseq technology. Since her arrival in 2016 in the Cantu lab, Mélanie has investigated the interaction between grapevine and trunk pathogens and has studied the genomic variability in the Esca pathogen Phaeoacremonium minimum. She is currently reconstructing and comparing the transcriptomes of grape accessions that carry different genetic resistance genes to powdery mildew. Mélanie's Google Scholar Page

Andrea Minio
Andrea earned a master degree in Bioengineering at Università degli Studi di Padova (Italy) under the supervision of prof. Di Camillo studying the topological properties of gene co-regulatory networks reconstructed by reverse egineering expression profiles. In Prof. Massimo Delledonne's lab he received his Ph.D in Applied Biotechnologies at Università di Verona (Italy) focusing on de novo reconstruction and annotation of genomes and transcriptomes. As bioinformatician in the Cantu Lab, Andrea applies computational methods to sequencing data with the purpose of uncover complex genomic characteristics and lifestyle of grapevine cultivar, fungal phytopathogens and other non model species. Andrea's Google Scholar Page


Amanda Vondras
Amanda received a BS in Biology from Cornell University in 2011 and PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Oregon State University in 2017. As an undergraduate student, she pursued the functional characterization of an enzyme suspected to be involved in norisoprenoid biosynthesis. Her doctoral work included studying uneven berry ripening and the effects of grape leafroll-associated virus 3 on ripening. As a postdoc in the Cantu Lab, she will delve more deeply into this plant-pathogen relationship by exploring how combinations of viral infections influence the severity of symptoms during ripening and alter plant defense responses.


Shahin S. Ali
Shahin received his B.Sc. in Agriculture and M.Sc. in Agricultural Biotechnology from Assam Agricultural University in India and Ph.D. in Biology and Environmental Science from University College Dublin, Ireland. Shahin’s Ph.D. research was on exploiting the molecular interaction between the fungus and plant cell wall during bio-ethanol production. During his short period as a postdoc in Ireland, Shahin studied Fusarium head blight and brassinosteroid mediated plant defense response of wheat and barley. In 2013 he moved to US and join the USDA/ARS Sustainable Perennial Crops Lab in Beltsville, Maryland and started working on the molecular mechanism of disease development and plant defense against various pathogens of cacao. He joined the Cantu lab in early 2018 as part of the ‘Microbial Pathogenomics of Major Cacao Disease’ project and is stationed at ARS Beltsville where he works with Dr. Bryan Bailey. Shahin's Google Scholar Page

Rosa Figueroa-Balderas
Senior Research Scientist
Rosa Figueroa-Balderas completed her M.S. and Ph.D. in Biochemical Sciences at the Institute of Biotechnology in the National University of Mexico (IBT-UNAM). In 2007, she was awarded a UCMexus-Conacyt postdoctoral fellowship where she developed marker-free transformation technologies to genetically improve California relevant crops at PIPRA/UC Davis. Throughout her postdoctoral training at UC Davis, Rosa designed and built complex plant transformation vectors with maximum freedom-to-operate with the aim of generating marker-free plants. She has collaborated with several Ag-companies designing plant transformation vectors and developing molecular characterization of thousands of independent transformation events with pre-commercial purposes. Rosa has been working in Cantu’s lab since December, 2014 primarily on the development, optimization and implementation of molecular biology protocols for grapevine genomic studies related to grape genetic resistance to Pierce’s disease, powdery mildew and Neofusicoccum parvum, as well as in grape whole genome projects. Rosa's Google Scholar Page

Jadran García Navarrete
Junior Specialist
Jadran received his B.S. in Biotechnology Engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica in 2017. As an undergraduate student, he worked in his University at the Biotechnology Research Center (CIB) with projects related to synthetic biology. He also worked at the Cantu Lab in 2016-2017 with projects related to the detection of fungal communities from grapevine cuttings of a commercial nurseries using high-throughput sequencing techniques. These projects served as his graduation work. After his degree, Jadran worked for a commercial laboratory where he conducted molecular biology diagnostics on different types of samples. As a junior specialist in Cantu Lab, Jadran will continue his work on diagnostics and ecology of grapevine trunk pathogens.

Ayca Ozcan
MSc Student (VENGG)
Ayca is a Masters student in Viticulture and Enology Group. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Food Engineering at Middle East Technical University Turkey, her interest of studying yeast metabolism brought her to UC-Davis. She has started working in Block lab group as a junior specialist on analyzing the nutrient utilization efficiency of commercial yeast strains during fermentation, collaborating with Cantu Lab for the transcriptomics aspect of the project led her to lean more towards studying identification of genes differentially expressed in different yeast strains for her masters with the co-advising of Dr. Block and Dr. Cantu.

Yang Ye
Research intern
Yang is pursuing his Applied Statistics (Concentrated in Mathematics) degree from the University of California, Davis. As an undergraduate student, he is interning in the Cantu lab and developing interactive genome data visualization with R.

Lucero (Lucy) Espinoza
Research intern
Lucy is attending UC Davis with the goal of obtaining a degree in Biotechnology (with a specialization in plants). With this degree in Biotechnology, Lucy plans to become a Genetic Engineer that studies and works with tree nuts. Her desire to study tree nuts stems from her interest in food allergies (specifically her own tree nut allergies). As a research intern in the Cantu Lab, Lucy plans to delve into and explore everything the Department of Viticulture and Enology has to offer.

Dingren (Diana) Liang
Research intern
Dingren (Diana) is a current undergraduate at UC Davis, majoring in Global Disease Biology with a concentration in plants. In the future, Diana plans on pursuing research in plant disease control and prevention. Her interest in plants began when she gave a presentation on Aegagropila linnaei and its unique mechanisms. As a research intern in the Cantu lab, Diana aims to learn more about pathogens affecting grape plants and the research process.

Past lab members

Eric Tran
Junior Specialist 2017-2018
Zirou (Vivienne) Ye
Junior Specialist 2013-2017
Barbara Blanco-Ulate
Postdoc 2013-2016. Current position: Assistant Professor (Department of Plant Sciences, UC Davis)
Gabrielle (Ella) Allenbeck
Research Assistant 2013-2017
Daniele Buonassisi
Visiting Phd Student 2016 (University of Udine)
Katherine Amrine
Postdoc 2013-2016. Current position: Program Director, Data Scientist at Insight Data Science
Laura Jones
MSc Student 2013-2014 (Viticulture and Enology Graduate Group, UC Davis)
Alexandre Carriot
Visiting MSc Student 2014 (University of Bordeaux)
Chiara Broccanello
Visiting PhD student 2014 (University of Padova)
Aurélie Sastre
Visiting MSc student (University of Bordeaux)
Eduardo Gutiérrez-Rodríguez
Postdoc 2012-2013. Current position: Assistant Professor (North Carolina State University)