Associate professor of molecular virology at the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Hernán García-Ruiz used the
Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI to inspire the students in his introductory graduate-level course. Learn more about his process in the interview below.
1) How did you incorporate the Top 10 Unanswered Questions into your class and teachings?
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, PLPT 801"Biology of Plant Pathogens" is our introductory graduate-level course. Under the leadership of myself and with collaboration from
Peter Mullin, and
Tom Powers, we use an inquiry-based learning approach, and we incorporated the
MPMI journal's "Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI." At the start of the semester, students used
this review to learn plant pathology terminology, experimental techniques and approaches, and current research topics in plant-microbe interactions.
During the second week of the semester, students read a cutting-edge research paper or review that addressed one of the "Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI." This activity allowed students to establish a connection between a knowledge gap and a publication that discussed that knowledge gap. Additionally, students used their selected paper as a model to structure and format a term paper on a current topic of interest in plant pathology.
Students chose a current topic in plant pathology and prepared literature review manuscripts that provided novel insights. The standard of quality is that these reviews must be suitable for publication in
At the end of the course, students are evaluated based on several criteria:
- Critical assessment of the research paper or literature review they read in week
- A literature review manuscript formatted for
- The Plant Pathology Symposium that is open to the Department of Plant Pathology and the entire university, as well as the general public. This semester it was held on December 16, 2021 at 8:05 AM.
2) What made the Top 10 Unanswered Questions a helpful teaching tool?
In our course, we want our students to understand molecular plant pathology from the basics all the way to the cutting edge.
MPMI's "Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI" wholly summarizes the cutting edge as defined by society members at the 2019 IS-MPMI Congress. It also provided an outstanding framework for students to learn the current research topics of interest worldwide.
3) Anything else you’d like to share about this experience?
Our inquiry-based learning approach is an effective and innovative method of instruction. Molecular plant pathology is an expansive field that covers many researchers and topics and defies the constraints of traditional lecture-based instruction. By focusing on the unanswered questions of plant pathology, we can go beyond simple memorization of known facts and direct the interest of beginning graduate students to the areas where they can contribute the most. Interestingly, by learning about the "Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI
," students naturally scrutinize their own thesis project and have made significant adjustments.
Dr. García-Ruiz would also like to recognize Samuel Eastman, a 4th-year graduate student who has helped with his class two years in a row, first as a TA then as a co-instructor. Samuel participated in the IS-MPMI Congress and enthusiastically embraced using the Top 10 Unanswered Questions as a teaching tool.
A group of nonprofit plant science organizations and societies have assembled to Root Out Oppression Together and Share Our Outcomes Transparently (ROOT & SHOOT), through a Research Coordination Network Grant funded by the National Science Foundation. Our overarching goal is to transform our discipline by getting to the root of the systemic oppressions that exist within our organizations (and ourselves) so we can regrow as inclusive, liberated, spaces.
We are seeking an organization, individual, or set of individuals (partnerships) who will work with us to achieve our goal. We need help to cocreate equitable and inclusive practices for our community; provide sustainable, inclusive, equitable, anti-racist/anti-oppression leadership training; guide power and equity assessments within our participating organizations; and consult for intervention programs. More detail on these projects can be found
We will start reviewing applications on January 14, 2022. We aim to start working with successful applicant(s) in April 2022.
Microgreens, the official podcast of the MPMI journal, is back! The latest episode, “The MPMI Top 10 List," transports listeners all the way to Glasgow, Scotland, to share the story behind the selection of MPMI's Top 10 Unanswered Questions. Listen to the podcast here or find Microgreens on your preferred podcast platform. Keep reading to find out more about podcast producer and editor Raka Mitra, who shares her experiences with Microgreens and gives a sneak peek at what's next for the podcast.
1) Tell us about yourself and why you were interested in starting Microgreens?
For many of us who listen to podcasts, they help fill the spaces in between: when we are commuting, walking the dog, exercising. For me, I have a 45-minute drive to work from Minneapolis, where I live, to the small town of Northfield, Minnesota, where I work as a professor at Carleton College. I listen to podcasts on the drive. Although I love science and learning about new things, I found myself gravitating to non-scientific podcasts: This American Life, Mom and Dad are Fighting, Heavyweight. Each time I would try to listen to a scientific podcast, it wouldn't resonate with me in the way that these other podcasts did.
Once I got tenure, I decided it was time to take some career risks that I might not have otherwise undertaken. I love teaching and working with students. In the classroom, much of a professor's job is to be a storyteller of science. So, I thought, maybe if there isn't a science podcast I love, maybe I should make one. In 2018, I signed up for a podcast bootcamp in Brooklyn, New York, where I met a wonderful mix of reporters, artists, and storytellers. This was the summer when there was a solar eclipse that was viewable in the US. Our first assignment was to go out on the street, interview people, and make a short podcast about the eclipse. I was the only scientist in the bootcamp, and I had brought eclipse viewing glasses because I had planned to duck out and watch the eclipse by myself. I happened to be sitting next to a woman from Vermont Public Radio, and we teamed up with another reporter and hit the streets of Brooklyn equipped with my solar eclipse glasses. I handed them out to kids, to older folks, and asked them what they saw. The whole experience was amazing. Regular, everyday people were enthralled by the eclipse that was happening right in front of them. They had made makeshift “glasses" of their own, whether with x-ray film, or through school projects. My experiences that day really resonated with my belief that science is for everyone.
I spent a lot of time learning how to record audio and how to develop stories, with various uncompleted projects until I met with Jeanne Harris, who I had known since my grad student days. She was the postdoc who trained me as a rotation student in Sharon Long's lab. We were at dinner, and she was talking about how she was becoming editor-in-chief of MPMI. I realized that this was my moment to pitch a podcast, so I did. I suggested to Jeanne that we make a scientific storytelling podcast aimed at engaging graduate students and beyond. This meant that we needed a podcast that was comprehensible to anyone with an undergraduate degree in the sciences. It would help bring newer members of the plant-microbe community into MPMI and might also engage listeners outside the scientific community. I told her that I had never done this, but that I had ideas, a bit of training, and would work hard. I'm happy that Jeanne took a chance on me. We started Microgreens before the 2019 IS-MPMI congress in Glasgow, which was my own crash course in podcasting, and it has been a fun ride. I love how much I'm learning, and how much it pushes me outside my comfort zone. I know that my podcasts are not nearly as fantastic as those that I regularly listen to and love, but I am I am proud of them, and I hope that they resonate with others.
2) What was it like producing the first two episodes in 2019?
It felt a lot like the beginning of graduate school, honestly. I was learning to do something as I was doing it. In grad school, that was research. For Microgreens, that was podcasting. I am exceptionally grateful for everyone who helped. I did not do any of this alone. APS had wonderful staff including Greg Grahek and Ashley Carlin who helped with the “media" side of things. Jeanne Harris is a solid leader who trusted me and gave me resources that I didn't know I even needed. My undergraduate student, Clare Gaughan, designed the Microgreens logo. And so many people in the scientific community gave me their time to make this whole thing possible. One of my goals in launching this podcast was to highlight the diversity of individuals who work in this field. I have many hours of audio to release from conversations with a range of people in MPMI. Every conversation I had was fascinating, and I feel so lucky to be part of the MPMI community.
3) You've just released the third episode in July. Why the long pause?
In a word: Pandemic. I know everyone will remember this time in a different way. But one commonality was that we had to make tough choices regularly. We had to be nimble, forward-thinking, careful, resourceful, and tireless. The list goes on. In that time, everyone had to develop a list of priorities and stick to them. For me, I had to put things that I loved, but were not at the “core" of what I had to do, on the back burner. I had to instead make the time to develop online courses and labs in cell biology and microbiology. I had to pivot my research group to computational investigations rather than working in the wet lab. We had Zoom meetings with collaborators and submitted a manuscript that was accepted for publication in Phytopathology. Outside of my career, there was so much to do to keep everyone that I cared about safe from harm. There still is. So as much as I loved it, Microgreens had to wait.
4) What's next for Microgreens? What do listeners have to look forward to?
I am very excited to announce that we plan to release a new Microgreens episode every month from now on. Integral to this whole effort is the addition of another podcast host, Tess Deyett. Tess is an Assistant Feature Editor for MPMI and had developed her own podcast, The Microbe Moment, before joining the MPMI team. She has been a wonderful partner who I can bounce ideas off and ask for advice. Tess has a lovely voice of her own, and you will hear more from her in the future. I hope you enjoy her stories as much as I do.
I love how many people are listening to this podcast. We just released the third episode of the podcast yesterday and have already had about 100 downloads. The second episode of the series has had over 2,200 downloads. For those who want to keep listening, please subscribe so you'll get new episodes as they are released. We're on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and a host of other streaming services. Also, get in touch if you have a podcast idea or are interested in sharing your own stories. We'd love to feature more voices from the MPMI community.
If you'd like to connect with Raka Mitra, send an email to email@example.com.
If you missed the recent Translational Science Workshop, you don't have to miss out.
You can still get access to all content On Demand.
Taking MPMI Discoveries to the Field: Part II
On Demand Pricing: $49 for IS-MPMI Members, $89 for Nonmembers*
The content presented in this workshop is independent from Part I, available On Demand.
Registrants will get the full experience regardless of attendance in the previous workshop.
Featured Speakers & Talk Topics
Bing Yang — Danforth Plant Science, St. Louis, MO, USA; University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA
Broad-spectrum resistance to bacterial blight in rice using genome editing
Niklaus Grunwald — Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, USA
Computational tools for translational research — Identifying new & reemerging pathogens & pests
Hailing Jin — University of California, Riverside, CA, USA
Leveraging gene silencing approaches to protect plants from fungi
Linda Johnson — AgResearch, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Epichloë fungal endophytes — From a biological curiosity in wild grasses to an essential component of resilient high performing ryegrass and fescue pastures
Continuing with the theme of translational plant research, IS-MPMI is hosting a second international virtual seminar with leaders in the field of molecular plant-microbe interactions who are taking molecular advances in plant science and translating these discoveries to develop disease resistant and high performing crops in agriculture. This meeting will highlight the use of genome editing, transcriptional gene silencing, new computational tools and beneficial microbes to study the complexities of plant responses to microbes. The goal is to share new developments that are at the forefront of the field and discuss key strategies used to translate these advances for biotechnology and industry applications.
The format will include four research presentations, each followed by an open question & answer period where participants can interact with the speakers. The event will be moderated by Mary Beth Mudgett (IS-MPMI President), Jeanne Harris (EIC, MPMI Journal), and Dennis Halterman (EIC, IS-MPMI Interactions). We encourage broad participation of graduate students, post-doctoral scholars, research scientists, principle investigators, funding agencies, and policy makers to provide diverse perspectives.
* All funds from IS-MPMI Virtual Seminar Events go to support society events and awards.
Original Broadcast Date: February 10, 2021
Pamela Ronald, University of California, Davis, has been named a 2020 World
Agriculture Prize Laureate by the Global Confederation of Higher Education
Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences. This award recognizes exceptional lifetime achievement in agriculture. She is the first woman whose work is recognized by the award. Read more about this announcement in ASPB News.
Barbara Kunkel, Washington University, has been selected to begome a Fellow of the AAAS in recognition of her distinguished discoveries related to Pseudomonas syringae. She will be inducted at the 2021 AAAS Meeting in February. Learn more about this Fellowship here.
Dec. 14, 11:00 a.m. EST
Learn how to foster diversity and inclusion in your research! Featuring Giles Oldroyd, Simona Radutoiu, Franck Ditengou, Ayooluwa Bolaji, Ariel Herrera, Patricia Baldrich, and Charles Roussin-Leveillee.
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. US Central Time Zone
Moderators: Mary Beth Mudgett, IS-MPMI President; Jeanne Harris, Editor-in-Chief, MPMI Journal; Dennis Halterman, IS-MPMI Interactions
- Uncovering complex traits for broad-spectrum disease resistance
- Jan Leach – Colorado State University
- Engineering durable resistance in crops
- Brian Staskawicz – Innovative Genomics Institute, Univ. of California, Berkeley
- Busting the rusts with resistance gene stacks in wheat
- Brian Steffenson – University of Minnesota
- Molecular mimicry modulates plant host responses to pathogens
- Pamela Ronald – University of California, Davis
$49 for IS-MPMI Members
$89 for Nonmembers
MPMI is pleased to introduce What’s New in MPMI!—a new series of live online seminars highlighting recent papers, presented by our authors. With the uncertainties of the ongoing pandemic and the need for connections during times of isolation, division, and conflict, we hope that our virtual seminar series will be a way to draw our research community together, providing an opportunity for us to connect with colleagues across the world. We especially hope that this series will provide an important venue for young scientists to share new work as opportunities to present have dwindled.
Finally, this series is freely available to increase and encourage global participation in this MPMI community series to anyone with an interest in molecular plant-microbe interactions. By bringing our talks to you, we hope to increase accessibility. All talks will be recorded and available at a later date on the MPMI website.
The series will be every other week, alternating between a time that permits immediate participation in India, Europe, and the United States (11am EDT), and a time that permits participation in the United States and Asia (9pm EDT). The format of this series will be a single, 25-minute talk, followed by time for questions.
Our first speaker was Matthew Neubauer, who gave a talk on “Regulation of Cell Death in Plants by EDR1, EDS1 and PAD4," which was selected as the April 2020 MPMI Editor’s Pick. If you missed the talk, watch it now and check out this excellent paper, now Open Access through the end of the year!
To attend the seminars, you will need to register in advance. Find all upcoming seminars here. We will post the registration information at least one week prior to the seminar. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Please share the information about What’s New in MPMI! with friends, colleagues, and students!
We look forward to having you join us!
Jeanne Harris, Editor-in-Chief, MPMI
Mary Beth Mudgett, President, IS-MPMI