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  • School of Integrative Plant Science
  • Horticulture Section

The American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) has recognized Liang Cheng, a doctoral candidate in Jenny Kao-Kniffin’s research program, as a 2021 ASHS Outstanding Graduate Horticulture Student.  Winners are chosen based on their academic achievements, the quality of their research, and their leadership and service.

Cheng’s research focuses on the role of soil microbiomes in mediating changes in plant growth. He applies plant-soil feedback theory to weeds and invasive plants, seeking to better understand how manipulating the soil microbiome might be a way to suppress these unwanted plants.

“Liang has already published papers that advance the field of horticulture and has several more pending,” says Kao-Kniffin, associate professor of horticulture. “He also has a talent for communicating how his work can be applied to industry R&D programs.”

“He is a star student who is doing especially creative research and opening new directions in his field,” says Thomas Björkman, professor of horticulture and Director of Graduate Studies for the Graduate Field of Horticulture. “And he stands out as being one of the best at building relationships and networks internationally.”

Cheng has been a member of Cornell’s Weed Science Team, participating in numerous intercollegiate competitions and mentoring other students. And for four years, he was captain of Cornell’s Kendo team, which won the 2019 Northeast Intercollegiate Kendo Tournament. Kendo is a modern Japanese martial art that teaches resilience and inner strength through disciplined training.

“My role was mostly leading the practice and coaching as the most experienced member, since we don’t have a coach on campus,” says Cheng, “Through Kendo, I help undergraduates develop maturity and relieve stress from the pressures of academics.  I hope to continue this kind of community engagement throughout my life, particularly with youth.”

Meet Liang

Kendo captain

As captain of Cornell’s Kendo team, Cheng (left) coached and mentored other students.

Kendo is a modern Japanese martial art whose purposes include molding the mind and body, cultivating a vigorous spirit, and promoting peace and prosperity among all peoples.

Meet Liang

Creative research

Cheng in growth chamber with common ragweed. His research focuses on the role of soil microbiomes in mediating changes in plant growth, seeking a better understanding how manipulating the microbiome might suppress these unwanted plants.

Meet Liang

Star student

“He is a star student who is doing especially creative research and opening new directions in his field,” says Thomas Björkman, professor of horticulture and Director of Graduate Studies for the Graduate Field of Horticulture.

liang cheng with kendo teammates
liang cheng in growth chamber holding common ragweed with roots exposed
liang cheng with vinyard in background

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