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/animal health, in particular how stresses or cultural practices modulate these compounds. 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. Dr. Lima is interested in two main areas. The first is to understand how the 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 the 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 and yield, food security, and human health and nutrition.
Dr. Lima serves as an Associate Editor for the Crop Science section C9 (Crops for Health and Nutrition) and as a Review Editor for Frontiers in Plant Science section Plant Nutrition.
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 professional certification in Bioinformatics (Gujarat University – India, 2004). For several years, Chandrakala was a Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry at various colleges in India. For the past years, 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 teach Cell and Molecular Biology at Concord Community College (2018). Chandrakala joined the Lima lab at UNH in 2019 as a graduate student to pursue a doctoral degree. Her research project involves the study of phytochemicals, and their roles in grapevine health and nutritional quality of grapes. Chandrakala is concluding her graduate studies at UNH, after Dr. Lima moved to Virginia Tech in Fall 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 Spring 2021 as a doctoral student and teaching assistant. As a teaching assistant, he supports NUTR 400 – Nutrition in health & well-being and ANSC 698 – Cooperative for real education in agricultural management (CREAM). As a doctoral researcher Mandal started working in the Lima lab at UNH investigating phytoestrogens in forage legumes and dairy milk. Mandal is concluding his graduate studies at UNH, after Dr. Lima moved to Virginia Tech in Fall 2021.
Former lab members
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