Marta R. M. Lima, Research Assistant Professor


Marta Lima is a Research Assistant Professor in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences at Virginia Tech. Dr. Lima received her B.Sc. degree in Applied Biology from the University of Minho in 2003 and earned her Ph.D. in 2009 at the same university. In 2010, she completed a Specialization in Epidemiology from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Porto. Dr. Lima held postdoctoral appointments at the Portuguese Catholic University, Baylor College of Medicine, and University of California Davis, before becoming an Assistant Professor at the University of New Hampshire in 2018, where she established the Lima Lab and taught Plant Physiology and Plant Stress Physiology. She moved to Virginia Tech in 2021.

Previously, Dr. Lima’s work involved characterizing molecular and biochemical mechanisms of plant-pathogen interactions, plant responses to combined biotic and abiotic stresses, processes involved in plant response to iron deficiency and the impact of legume iron composition on human nutrition. Dr. Lima’s current research interests center on plant compounds of importance to human and animal health, how to modulate these compounds in plant foods, and their role on animal and human health. With an ever-increasing world population, food security is a priority. While traditionally food security may have been only related to food sufficiency, presently adequate food quality is also gaining importance to achieve nourishment and seize health benefits of plant foods. She is interested in two main areas. The first is to understand how phytochemical content of fruits and legumes could be enhanced to increase their effect on health. Phytochemicals, found in fruit and vegetables, have been associated with prevention of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. However, about 75% of the U.S. population consume below the recommended fruit and vegetable intake level. Her second area of interest is increasing iron bioavailability of legume grains. Iron is an essential nutrient for plants and humans and its deficiency leads to severe problems. In humans, iron deficiency affects nearly 30% of the population globally and occurs in both developing and industrialized countries.  To achieve these goals, Dr. Lima uses an interdisciplinary approach, collaborating with colleagues in different disciplines including plant physiology, biochemistry, agriculture, breeding, and animal and human nutrition. The ultimate goal of her research program is to improve crop quality, food security, and human health and nutrition.

Dr. Lima is the 2023 Chair of section C9 – Crops for Health and Nutrition, in the Crop Science Society of America, and serves as an Associate Editor for the Crop Science section C9 (Crops for Health and Nutrition). She also serves as a Review Editor for the Plant Nutrition section of Frontiers in Plant Science, and the Nutrition and Sustainable Diets section of Frontiers in Nutrition and Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems.


A. S. Chandrakala, Graduate Researcher


A. S. Chandrakala earned a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry (University of Madras – India, 1994), and holds two master’s degrees in Clinical Biochemistry (MSc, University of Madras – India, 1996; MPhil, Bharathidasan University – India, 2006), along with a professional certification in Bioinformatics (Gujarat University – India, 2004). For several years, Chandrakala was a Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry at various colleges in India. At the University of New Hampshire (UNH), Chandrakala pursued independent investigations in the areas of plant tissue culture and biotechnology (Minocha lab 2016-2019) and protein expression and purification (Varga lab 2018-2019). She also worked as a research technician in the Minocha lab (2016-2019) and at the USDA Forest Service (2017-2018), in addition to teaching Cell and Molecular Biology at Concord Community College (2018). Chandrakala joined the Lima lab at UNH in 2019 to pursue a graduate degree. Her research project involves the study of the physiology and biochemistry of cold-hardy table grapes, as well as the investigation of grapevine compounds and their roles in grapevine health. Chandrakala is concluding her graduate studies at UNH after Dr. Lima moved to Virginia Tech in the Fall of 2021.


Palash Mandal, Graduate Researcher

Palash Mandal was born into and brought up in a farming family in Bangladesh. He completed his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture (2012) and Master of Science in Agronomy (2013) at Sylhet Agricultural University in Bangladesh. In 2018, Palash earned his second Master’s degree in Plant Sciences from Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in the Netherlands. At WUR, he studied the function of key developmental transcription factors (PLT3, 5, 7) in Arabidopsis lateral root development; he also investigated root competition under drought stress in intercropping systems. Mandal worked as a junior faculty in Sylhet Agricultural University since 2013, until he joined the ANFS Department at UNH in the Spring of 2021 as a doctoral student and teaching assistant. As a teaching assistant, he supported NUTR 400 – Nutrition in health & well-being and ANSC 698 – Cooperative for real education in agricultural management (CREAM). Mandal started working in the Lima lab investigating phytoestrogens in forage legumes and dairy milk. After Dr. Lima moved to Virginia Tech in the Fall of 2021, Mandal joined the UNH Agroecology Lab to continue his doctoral studies. He continues to collaborate with the Lima Lab on the investigation of phytoestrogens in forage legumes.


Former lab members

Undergraduate Researchers

Leah Ford (University of New Hampshire, Fall 2020), Grape post-harvest quality

Madeline Young (University of New Hampshire, 2019-2020), Plant Iron Deficiency Chlorosis

Molly Hanlon (University of New Hampshire, 2019-2020), Post-harvest nutritional quality of cold hardy table grapes produced on different vine training systems

Hannah Siegel (University of New Hampshire, Spring 2019), Phytoestrogens in legume forages

Jessica Hodgkins (University of New Hampshire, Fall 2018), assisted the launch of the research program in the Lima lab 

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