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Student Focus

Nelson J. Shaulis Summer Scholarship program provides research opportunities to local students

By Janet van Zoeren

The Nelson J. Shaulis Summer Scholarship program provides a stipend to promising Cornell students, to allow them to spend a summer conducting research projects with Cornell scientists. This summer’s scholars, Jen Neubauer and Lindsay Brown, conducted research with Anna Katharine Mansfield in the Enology Department and Ben Gutierrez at the USDA germplasm repository, respectively.

Jen Neubauer is starting her second year as a viticulture student with the Finger Lakes Community College, where she heard about the opportunity from her advisor, Paul Brock.

Jen Neubauer presents her poster
Jen Neubauer presents her poster at the summer scholars poster session.

She worked with enology professor Anna Katharine Mansfield and senior extension associate Tim Martinson’s program to evaluate “loose-clustered Vignoles” clones, generated by USDA ARS scientists Amanda Garris and Peter Cousins.  Vignoles is known for its excellent wine quality, but its tight grape clusters and thin skins are prone to late-season fruit rots.   Vineyard studies showed that several of the clones had measurably looser clusters and showed a 50% reduction in fruit rots. 

But would the wines retain their varietal character?  Anna Katharine Mansfield’s program made wines from the standard commercial clone and four ‘loose clustered clones’ planted at Cornell’s Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory.

Jen was tasked with testing them with a tasting panel. “I designed, ran and analyzed the data from the sensory experiment, to evaluate sensory differences between the standard commercial Vignoles variety and four loose clustered clonal selections.  The results will be used in evaluating whether the loose cluster clones have favorable flavor characteristics, and are suitable for commercial release to NY growers.”

Lindsay Brown, in her third year as a Viticulture and Enology student with Cornell University, heard about the opportunity from Corrigan Herbert, a past participant who worked with Bruce Reisch and strongly recommended the program.

Lindsay Brown at poster session
Lindsday Brown presenting her poster at the summer scholars poster session. 

“My summer project, working with Ben Gutierrez at the USDA germplasm repository, was to test the impact of powdery mildew resistance on phenolic concentrations in grape leaves, specifically the Ren3 and Ren9 resistance genes. I was able  to use leaf samples inoculated with powdery mildew inoculated and genotyped by the VitisGen2 project in Lance Cadle-Davidson’s program”, said Lindsay.

“We found that measuring the phenolic content at eight days post inoculation did not show the development of the defensive compounds nor endogenous differences that a timed trial ranging from 0-5 days could. Additionally, the phenolic concentrations at the point measured could have been a result of degradation through usage.  Additional studies will help gain a deeper understanding of the resistance genes.”

Overall, both participants were very appreciative of the opportunity, and are excited to apply their experiences further in the future.

Jen described it as an amazing experience, and in particular found that “the support and encouragement we received from all of the faculty and researchers at the Cornell campuses was extraordinary”. 

With the benefit of the summer’s research experience, Jen applied to Cornell’s Food Science graduate program for Fall 2020, and cites this program as a primary factor in her changing her career trajectory away from production and toward a career in applied research.

Lindsay said that the summer internship “allowed me to view graduate school as a potential that I hadn’t considered before. I am now very interested in studying grape pathology in the future”.

Since 1978, the Nelson J. Shaulis Fund for the Advancement of Viticulture has supported a summer scholarship program to fund promising students, allowing them to spend a summer conducting research projects with Cornell scientists. It was initiated by the New York Grape Production Research Fund to honor Cornell professor of horticulture Nelson Shaulis's contributions to the industry.

Janet van Zoeren is an extension support specialist with the statewide viticulture extension program, in the Section of Horticulture, based at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva, NY.