My name is Mitchell Feldmann and I am a third-year PhD Candidate in Horticulture and Agronomy. I am a part of the UC Davis Strawberry Research and Breeding Program lead by Dr. Steven Knapp, where I focus on the quantitative genetics controlling fruit quality, yield, and other critical commercial traits. It has been an absolute pleasure for me to study strawberry at such a prestigious university under the guidance of so many professional faculty members. I am planning to complete my tenure at UC Davis in Spring of 2020 and move into post-doctoral positions where I hope to continue exploring image-based and in-field high-throughput phenotyping in horticultural crop species. Prior to my studies at UC Davis, I received my Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology alongside a minor in Mathematics from the University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona.
My passion for plant science was inherited from my father, who would regularly sit me down as a child and tell me details about the plant species he studied, Arabidopsis thalianaor take me on “field trips” to his laboratory at the University of Arizona. Over a decade later, I found myself working in a research lab under the guidance of Dr. Noah Whiteman utilizing Arabidopsis thaliana as a host for Scaptomyza flavaan herbivorous fly, as we sought to understand the plant genetics controlling larval performance and female preference. I have spent much of my life surrounded by plant sciences and, as a result, I feel very much at home in research facilities and on academic campuses, where I hope to stay.
My research at UC Davis is focused on cultivated strawberry, an allo-octoploid. My PhD thesis aims to provide novel insights into the genetics of fruit yield, shelf-life, and flavor through the implementation of contemporary methodologies in quantitative, population, and statistical genetics. Through this research we hope to understand the limitations of genomic-enabled breeding strategies and to assess our ability to improve the flavor and nutritional content in strawberry. I am also quite interested in image based phenotyping options for predicting disease status and fruit quality. I collaborate with the Department of Computer Sciences and the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering to develop new imaging platforms to rapidly study the complete surface morphology of fruit and to understand the visual features indicative of disease status in strawberry.
I have been exploring several topics that I find interesting, ranging from quantifying and correcting the genetic variance explained by a single quantitative trait locus, developing and deploying a flexible DNA variant discovery pipeline against an octoploid reference genome, and exploring the necessary morphometric complexity to generate novel genomic insights for fruit shape in strawberry. I have been able to present much of this research at major conferences, including the National Association of Plant Breeders (2017), Plant and Animal Genome (2018), and PHENOME (2018).
During my time here, I have also discovered a deep interest and enjoyment of teaching. I work with Dr. Daniel Runcie as a Teaching Assistant for PLS 205 – Experimental Design and Analysis. This class affords me a great deal of time to interact with other graduate students from a multitude of backgrounds and scientific disciplines, and I hope to impart just a bit of my passion for the topics into them. The teaching experience has opened my eyes to an important part of myself that I had never experienced before. It has become challenging to see myself in a scientific career lacking the opportunity to educate and mentor.
Upon completion of my PhD at UC Davis, I intend to continue working at academic research institutes implementing the methodologies to new, possibly under-represented plant species and educating future generations of scientists. Although strawberry has become my favorite organism to think about, I still find myself fascinated by other crops. I hope to continue learning from my collaborators, colleagues, and students, and to also spread my passion for plant science and genetics to young people who may not have had the inspiration that I was privileged to have early in my career.

Research Areas:
Genetics, Genomics, Phenomics, Evolution


Feldmann MJ, Bridges WC, Knapp SJ. Heritability of a Quantitative Trait Locus. In prep.

Gloss AD, Brachi B, Feldmann MJ, Groen SC, Bartoli C, Gouzy J, LaPlante ER, Meyer CG, Pyon HS, Rogan SC, Roux F, Bergelson J, Whiteman NK. (2017) Genetic variants affecting plant size and chemical defenses jointly shape herbivory in Arabidopsis. bioRxiv. bioRxiv 156299; doi:

Feldmann MJ, Bhartia YV, Newell SA, Harshman JM, Knapp SJ. 2018. Quantitative Methods for Studying Fruit Morphology in Strawberry. PHENOME18. Tucson, AZ, Poster Presentation.

Feldmann MJ, Hardigan MA, Poorten TJ, Acharya CB, Colle M, Edger PP, VanBuren R, Knapp SJ. 2018. Genotyping-By-Sequencing and Reference Genome Enabled Variant Discovery in Octoploid Strawberry. Plant and Animal Genome XXVI. San Diego, CA. Poster Presentation.

Feldmann MJ, Bridges WC, Knapp SJ. 2017. Heritability of a Quantitative Trait Locus. National Association of Plant Breeders Annual Meeting. Davis, CA. Poster Presentation.

Feldmann MJ, Gloss AD, Groen SC, Rogan S, Brachi B, Bergelson J, Whiteman NK. 2015. Identification of genomic regions associated with adult herbivore preference and larval performance in Arabidopsis thaliana. University of Arizona EEB Undergraduate Conference. Tucson, AZ. Poster Presentation.

Volunteer Activities

Admissions Committee of the Horticulture and Agronomy Grad Group                 

Jan 2017-May 2017 University of California, Davis

Admissions Committee of the Horticulture and Agronomy Grad Group                  

Jan 2018-May 2018 University of California, Davis

Letters to a Pre-Scientist Participant         

Dec 2017-Present

Plant Sciences Seminar Leader     

Sept 2016-Present University of California, Davis

2016-2017 Elected Horticulture and Agronomy Graduate Group Officer                  

Sept 2016-Sept 2017 University of California, Davis

2017-2018 Elected Horticulture and Agronomy Graduate Group Officer                  

Sept 2017-Sept 2018 University of California, Davis

2018 UC Davis Plant Science Symposium Committee President                               

Sept 2016-Apr 2017 University of California, Davis

2017 UC Davis Plant Science Symposium Committee Member                                 

Sept 2016-Apr 2017 University of California, Davis

2016 UC Davis Plant Breeding Symposium Volunteer                                            

Apr 2016 University of California, Davis

Current Affiliations
Experience & Education