Cantu Lab at UC Davis

Department of Viticulture & Enology

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Dario Cantù
Associate Professor

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

Google Scholar Page

Current lab members


Abraham Morales-Cruz
PhD Student (GGHA)

Abraham is a PhD student in the Horticulture and Agronomy Graduate Group. He is interested in using genomics and bioinformatics to understand the interaction between plants and fungal pathogens. In the Cantu lab he studies the mechanisms of virulence underlying grapevine trunk diseases caused by fungal pathogens. Abraham received his B.S. in Biotechnology Engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica in 2012. Before joining the Cantu lab in 2013, he worked at the Seed Biotechnology Center at UC Davis. At SBC he conducted research on pepper genomics, focusing on the discovery of genes associated with a major QTL of capsaicinoid biosynthesis. Abraham's Google Scholar Page


Jerry Lin
MSc Student (VENGG)

Jerry is a Masters student in the Viticulture & Enology Graduate Group. 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 developing techniques for genetic transformation of fungi responsible for grapevine trunk diseases. He is interested in using genetic knockouts and transformants to study the biology of pathogenic fungi as they grow and interact with their hosts.


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.


Bárbara Blanco-Ulate

Bárbara earned her undergraduate degree in Biotechnology Engineering from the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica. During her PhD under the supervision of Drs. Powell and Labavitch Barbara made interesting discoveries on how susceptibility to pathogens is regulated during tomato fruit ripening. In the Cantu Lab Barbara's research focuses on studying the impact of microbial pathogens on plant metabolism by integrating transcriptional and metabolic data. Bárbara'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, Viticulture and Wine producing at the Institut de la Vigne et du Vin (Bordeaux, France) where she conducted research on the functional characterization of O-methyltransferases involved in methoxypyrazines biosynthesis in Vitis vinifera 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 RNA-Seq technology. In the Cantu lab, Mélanie investigates the interaction between grapevine and Neofusicoccum parvum, an aggressive trunk pathogen.


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


Zirou Ye
Research assistant

Zirou is a senior international student from China. She has been a volunteer of an environmental protection NGO since 1998. In 2012 she was admitted by UC Davis Environmental Science and Management major. Then, her interest toward plant science and wine made her start learning Viticulture and Enology and she finally transferred to a double VEN and Economics major. She joined the Cantu lab at the end of 2013, where she works on grape pathogen projects.


Gabrielle (Ella) Allenbeck
Research assistant

Ella is a current undergraduate in the Viticulture and Enology program, emphasizing in Plant Science and graduating in June of 2017. Her participation in the University Honors Program and passions for plant pathology and viticultural sustainability led her to the Cantu lab in search of research opportunities. She's been with the lab since 2015, working with Dario to write an American Vineyard Foundation project proposal. Upon its funding, she started working with Abraham on deep-sequencing methods of trunk pathogens.

Past lab members


Katherine Amrine
Postdoc. Current position: Program Director, Data Scientist at Insight Data Science


Laura Jones
MSc Student (Viticulture and Enology Graduate Group, UC Davis)
Alexandre Carriot
MSc Student (University of Bordeaux)
Chiara Broccanello
PhD student (University of Padova)


Aurélie Sastre
MSc student (University of Bordeaux)
Eduardo Gutiérrez-Rodríguez
Postdoc. Current position: Assistant Professor (North Carolina State University)