Research Team

Field Pea in Pelion sc

Team Members

Dr. Dil Thavarajah

P.I. Pulse Quality and Nutritional Breeding Program

Professor of Plant & Environmental Sciences

Thavarajah earned her PhD in Plant Science and MSc in Soil Science from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and a BSc in Soil Science from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. Dil serves as an honorary visiting lecturer at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, and key research partner with  International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) to release biofortified lentil cultivars for Africa and Asia. She is internationally recognized in lentil biofortification, for iron, zinc, and selenium. 

Tristan Lawrence

Program Manager

West Palm Beach,FL

Lawrence graduated from Clemson University in 2018 with a BS in Agronomy and a minor in Plant Pathology. He joined Dr. Thavarajah’s Vegetable and Pulse Quality and Nutrition Team at Clemson University upon graduation. Tristan's role within the lab consists of overseeing and maintaining all research fields, collecting data, analyzing nutritional quality and content of samples, as well as 'crossing' varieties for biofortification and nutritional increase. Lawrence's enthusiasm for environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture goes far beyond the lab program; his passion often spilling into every day life.

Dr. Emerson Shipe

Soybean Plant Breeder & Research Associate

Professor of Emeritus 

Dr. Shipe is a former soybean pulse breeder at Clemson University. He led the soybean breeding program from 1980 until 2012. Dr. Emerson Shipe's role within the program is to provide invaluable advice and assistance in organic and conventional pulse crop breeding efforts. His desire to continue learning and educating others has brought him back into the pulse breeding world, however, this time with an emphasis on field pea and lentil crops.

Dr. Pushparajah Thavarajah

Chemistry Research Scientist

Sri Lanka

Thava attended the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka where he earned his undergraduate degree. He then went on to receive his PHD from University of Saskatchewan in Canada. He specializes in chemistry sciences. Within the lab, Thava plays a valuable role assisting in chemical analysis and enforcing and emphasizing safety procedures in the laboratory.

Joshua "Adam" Kay

Lab Manager

Travelers Rest, SC

Adam graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Plant and Environmental Sciences, with a concentration in Agricultural Biotechnology. Adam is dedicated to his work with the lab. Adam enjoys his responsibilities with in the lab team, and wears many 'hats'. He specializes in, but is not limited to, maintaining and managing all Laboratory research, protocols, and procedures.


Lucas Boatwright

Research Assistant Professor of Genomics and Bioinformatics 

Computational Biologist

Lucas Boatwright is a Computational Biologist. He graduated from Samford University, with a BASc in Biology/Biological Sciences. He received his MSc in Molecular Biology from the University of Alabama in Birmingham. He then went on to earn his PhD and Post-doc from University of Florida in Botany/Plant Biology and Bioinformatics science, respectively. Boatwright's role with in the lab includes; graduate student supervision, genomic and phenomic data management, database development, and manuscript preparation. 

Elizabeth Parker Beane

Communications Manager

Washington, DC

Beane earned her B.S. from Clemson University in Communications and a minor in Sustainability, in May 2017. She joined Dr. Thavarajah's program as Communications Manager in early 2022. Beane advocates for a healthy, active, and sustainable plant based food system, both in the United States and globally. She became a vegetarian in the summer of 2016, when she made the decision to stop contributing to the meat industry completely due to it's devastating environmental impacts. 

Richard Baker 

Research Associate

Mooresville, North Carolina

Richard Baker graduated from Presbyterian College, located in Clinton, South Carolina, where he earned his Bachelors degree in Biology. In 1973, he began working at Clemson University. Baker joined the department of Plant Pathology and Physiology. His role within the lab group depends on where he is needed most. He plays a valuable role in assisting lab members in various aspects  in the field, crop house, and greenhouses. 

Dr. Nathan Johnson

Post Doc/ Research Fellow

Northern Minnesota

In 2018, Johnson completed his B.A. in Pastoral Ministry from Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. After returning to the sciences, he accepted the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree at Clemson University, studying plant breeding and genetics. Johnson's research focuses on prebiotic carbohydrates and protein quality in lentil. Dr. Johnson completed his doctoral program in August 2022, working on developing genetic resources and rapid analysis methods to breed more nutritious and climate resilient lentil varieties.

Collaborating Team

Shiv Kumar Agrawal 

Food Legume Breeder

International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)
Research Gate

Shiv has 33 years of experience in legumes improvement through resistance breeding, pre-breeding, and development of elite germplasm. In collaboration with national partners, he has contributed to the development of 55 lentil, 5 mung bean, 2 urdbean, 1 rice, and 3 grasspea varieties. PDr. Kumar currently leads ICARDAs South Asia and China Regional Program, based in New Delhi, India. The program aims to improve the germplasm of lentil, kabuli chickpea, faba bean, and grass pea, ultimately delivering to national partners in South Asia and China.

Diego Rubiales

Spanish National Research Council, CSIC

Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (IAS)

Diego Rubiales is a Full Professor at the Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, CSIC- IAS, Córdoba, Spain. His research interests include legume and cereal breeding for disease resistance. He has supervised 30 PhDs. He has been President of the International Legume Society and of the European one, and member of the Ex.Com of the Int. Parasitic Plant Society. Diego Rubiales has extensive experience in coordination of research (18 international and 18 Spanish projects).

Graduate Students

Sonia Salaria

Doctoral Student

Punjab, India

Sonia Salaria completed her B.Sc. and Masters in Agricultural Sciences at Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana, India. Majoring in Plant Breeding and Genetics, with a minor in Biotechnology. Sonia came to Clemson University in Fall 2021, where she is currently working towards her Ph.D. Her research focuses on nutritional enhancement of lentils grown under organic conditions and the development of nutritionally rich lentils with higher concentrations of protein and S- containing amino acids.

Mark Dempsey

Doctoral Student

Asheville, NC

Mark earned his B.S in Environmental Biology from Appalachian State University in North Carolina. He continued his studies in environmental science, earning a masters degree in Soil Microbiology from Miami University in Ohio. Dempsey is currently in his first year as a doctoral student at Clemson University. His role within the lab includes researching the adaptability of lentils and other cool-season pulses/legumes to Southeastern soil and climate. Mark's research focuses on nutritional breeding.

Undergraduate Student Interns

Nathan Windsor

PES, UPIC Intern

Greenville, South Carolina

Nathan is a junior at Clemson University. He is majoring in Plant and Environmental Sciences, with a concentration in agronomy and minor in horticulture and entomology. Windsor's role within the program includes, testing and processing material, and data analysis. He has been trained in using and operating the FTIR, which is a precise test to find nutritional bonds of a material, and is the main instrument used to do this in the lab program.

Lindsey Moroney

PES, Undergraduate intern

Pelzer, South Carolina

Lindsey is a senior Plant & Environmental Science major with a concentration in agronomy, and a minor in agricultural mechanization and business. Lindsey Moroney's roles include, greenhouse operations and lentil nutritional breeding data collection and analysis. Her favourite aspect of the program is getting hands on experience outside in the trial field; packing seed, planting, and harvesting at our various field locations.

Jacob “Jake”Johnson

PES, Undergraduate intern

Conway, South Carolina

Jake is a sophomore undergraduate in the PES Agricultural Biotechnology concentration. He plans to minor in Genetics and pursue a PhD after graduation in 2025. Jake Johnson's role in the program includes taking part in aspects of lab research, as well as, greenhouse research and data analysis.