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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences



Keely McQuain Keely w. McQuain

Department of Plant Pathology
Plant Pathology - Plant Microbiology
North Royalton, OH 

2024 Distinguished Senior Award Recognition Reception Program (.pdf) 

2024 Distinguished Senior Award Recipient Reception Poster (.pdf) 

Keely McQuain is a plant pathology major with a horticulture minor who took a summer internship interest in plant diseases and turned it into a winning research project. As a first-year student, Keely was selected as a Dunn Sports and Wellness Scholar (DSWS). She received leadership training and opportunities to network with industry professionals. As a sophomore, she served as a mentor for DSWS, supporting incoming freshmen, planning events and facilitating group discussions.

The following summer, Keely served as a research intern for Holden Forests and Gardens at the David G. Leech Research Station in Madison, Ohio. She pruned, mulched and mowed to help maintain the gardens, and pollinated and hybridized rhododendrons and azaleas.

This hands-on introduction to plant pathology and horticulture solidified why she chose her major. She also conducted a research project focused on isolating Phytophthora from soil and developed a protocol to prevent its spread from infested areas. When she returned to Columbus, she began working in the Soybean Pathology Lab studying diagnostic methods for oomycete pathogens, which cause major diseases in soybeans such as Phytophthora root rot and Pythium seedling damping-off. Her nominator commended her “positive attitude, whether completing microscopy work in the lab, or out in the field collecting soil samples in the summer heat.”

Besides collecting soil samples, her responsibilities included preparing and maintaining greenhouse and laboratory experiments, phenotype screenings of soybean seedlings with oomycete races, molecular characterization of Ohio oomycete isolates, and diagnostic work. She learned to identify soybean diseases, test soybeans for resistance to Phytophthora, process and count nematode eggs for field estimates, and make media and maintain culture collections. She also worked in the Ornamental Pathology lab with Dr. Rachel Capouya and Dr. Francesca Hand to gain more experience in diagnostic work with woody ornamentals.

She appreciated the support of Dr. Horacio Lopez-Nicora, who encouraged her to begin a research project and present it at the CFAES poster competition, where she won second place. Keely also received a travel award to present her research at the American Phytopathological Society’s North Central Division Meeting at Purdue University. According to her nominator, “most of the student presenters at this meeting are graduate students, and Keely did an outstanding job representing Ohio State, CFAES and the Plant Pathology undergraduate program. Her work is directly contributing to studies on how to manage Pythium and Phytophthora water mold diseases.” She will graduate with research distinction.

Keely plans to attend graduate school to obtain her master’s degree in plant pathology at Ohio State and will continue her work in the Soybean Pathology Lab with Dr. Horacio Lopez-Nicora, studying oomycete pathogens and diagnostics.

Service, involvement, and accolades: CFAES Undergraduate Research Forum, 2nd place, Environmental and Plant Sciences | Travel Award at APS North Central Division Meeting at Purdue University, Indiana | OSU Buckeyethon (fundraiser for children with cancer at Nationwide Children’s Hospital) | Dean’s List

Keely McQuain - Press Release

Keely McQuain - Photo Album