Past Students

At the Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center (OPGC), training the next generation of horticulturists is integral to our mission. Since our establishment in 2001, we’ve been providing hands-on training that allows students to gain practical skill and experience. So far, we’ve employed over 100 undergraduate and graduate students, providing learning opportunities across various facets of horticultural science, including seed biology, plant propagation, micropropagation, plant breeding, and greenhouse management. 

At OPGC, our mission is to acquire, document, maintain, characterize, and distribute herbaceous ornamental genetic resources and associated information for conservation, and to enhance scientific research as well as the floriculture and nursery industry. As part of this mission, students can actively engage with the National Plant Germplasm System and develop an understanding of the processes involved in safeguarding and promoting the genetic diversity of herbaceous ornamental plants. 

As we look towards the future, our commitment to excellence in horticultural education remains unwavering. We’re excited to work with new students and provide them with a platform to develop practical skills in the field of horticulture.

Meet a few of the students who’ve worked at OPGC and have successfully transitioned into roles within the horticulture industry…

Peter ZalePeter Zale

PhD “Germplasm Collection, Characterization, and Enhancement of Eastern Phlox Species” (2014)

Current position: Associate Director, Conservation, Plant Breeding and Collections at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania


Lynette HigginbothamLynette Higginbotham

OPGC Undergraduate Student Worker (2002-2003)

Current position: Owner and founder of Madison House Designs, a wedding and events floral studio, Marysville, Ohio


Ka Yeon JeongKa Yeon Jeong

MS “Responses of Six Begonia Species to Different Fertilizer Concentrations, Substrate pH and Shade Levels” (2006)

Current position: Corporate Research and Development Manager at Sun Gro Horticulture, Columbus, Ohio


Steven HabaSteven Haba

OPGC Research Assistant (2010-2015) + MS “Conservation of Begonia Germplasm Through Seeds” (2015)

Current position: Operations Manager at Molecular Farms, Salinas, California


Dan RobartsDan Robarts

PhD “Investigations of Morphological and Molecular Variation in Wild and Cultivated Violets” (2013)

Current position: Greenhouse Coordinator and Plant Propagator, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, Maine


Joseph TychonievichJoseph Tychonievich

OPGC Undergraduate Student Worker (2003-2005)

Current position: Book author, speaker and plant breeder, his writing has appeared in publications including Fine Gardening, The New York Times, and Horticulture Magazine. South Bend, Indiana


Erica Riel-CardenErica Riel-Carden

OPGC Undergraduate Student Worker (2010-2011)

Current position: Adjunct Faculty at Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business specializing in commercial agriculture, food, and biotechnology contracts and transactions, San Francisco, California


Fred Higginbotham IIIFred Higginbotham III

OPGC Undergraduate Student Worker (2003-2005)

Current position: Growing Operations Manager, Millcreek Gardens, Ostrander, Ohio



Coralie FarinasCoralie Farinas

PhD “Understanding the Powdery Mildew Disease of the Ornamental Plant Phlox: Combining Applied and Basic Research” (2020)

Current position: Plant Pathology Scientist, Ball Horticultural Company, Guadalupe, California


Mandy HansenMandy Hansen

OPGC Student Worker (2009-2012)

Current position: Horticulturist at The Toledo Zoo and Aquarium, Toledo



Ryan SlaughterRyan Slaughter

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2010-2012)

Current position: Research Assistant, South Centers, The Ohio State University, Piketon, Ohio



Dylan SedmakDylan Sedmak

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2012-2016)

Current position: Regional Account Manager for PanAmerican Seed, Midwest and Great Lakes Region



Tim FleischerTim Fleischer

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2004-2009)

Current position: Assistant Horticulturist, City of Dublin, Ohio



Nathan GiffordNathan Gifford

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2016-2017)

Current position: Propagation and IPM Manager at Ohio Nursery Exchange, Grove City, Ohio



Morgan BetinazziMorgan Betinazzi

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2002-2004)

Current position: Maintenance and Enhancement Coordinator at 9 Trees Landscape Construction, Columbus, Ohio


Patrick WidmayerPatrick Widmayer

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2011-2014)

Current position: Landscape Designer and Account Manager at 1st Impressions Landscape and Garden Center



Josh HenryJosh Henry

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2013-2014)

Current position: Technical Services Specialist at Ball Horticultural Company, Ostrander, Ohio



Nathan BundyNathan Bundy

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2016-2018)

Current position: Greenhouse Coordinator and Compost Manager at Greenacres Foundation, Cincinnati, Ohio



Katelyn (Zellner) StaskiewiczKatelyn (Zellner) Staskiewicz

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2015-2016)

Current position: Agronomy Claims Specialist, Nationwide Insurance, Miami, Florida.



Boden FisherBoden Fisher

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2016-2018)

Current position: Region 1 Watershed Manager, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Arlington, Ohio



Andres Bohorquez RestrepoAndres Bohorquez Restrepo

MS “Biochemical and Colorimetric Study of Flower Color in Phlox Species" (2015)

Current position: Cannabis Operations Manager, GEO Expansion Markets, KIVA Brands, Washington, D.C.


Robert TichinelRobert Tichinel

OPGC Undergraduate Research Assistant (2014)

Current position: Lead Grower at Halo, Portland, Oregon



Students interested in employment, an internship or just volunteering are encouraged to contact the Director, Yu Ma ( to arrange a meeting and discuss interests and plans.