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.
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
A. S. Chandrakala – Physiology and Biochemistry of Cold-Hardy Table Grapevines, MSc Agricultural Sciences, University of New Hampshire, 2022
Leah Ford – Grape post-harvest quality, University of New Hampshire Fall 2020
Madeline Young – Plant Iron Deficiency Chlorosis, University of New Hampshire, 2019-2020
Molly Hanlon – Post-harvest nutritional quality of cold hardy table grapes produced on different vine training systems, Honors Thesis, University of New Hampshire, 2019-2020
Hannah Siegel – Phytoestrogens in legume forages, University of New Hampshire, Spring 2019
Jessica Hodgkins, University of New Hampshire, Fall 2018
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