2020 - Issue 4

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Dec 18
Interactions Issue 4, 2020
2020-Q12 IS-MPMI Interactions Issue 4 (copy)

Ashley Carlin, communications coordinator for IS-MPMI, recently asked authors Ralph Panstruga and Matthew Moscou questions about their recently published review article addressing one of the MPMI journal’s Top 10 Unanswered Questions, “What is the molecular basis of nonhost resistance?” This Q&A is designed to serve as an entry point for students and to function as a useful tool for teaching. The answers will be used to develop a press release related to the article and disseminate the information to a wider audience.
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Also in this issue...
Arnaud Djami Tchatchou and co-authors show how plant hormones like auxin are involved in disease resistance. Their results show that auxin signaling in the host affects salicylic acid synthesis and can lead to susceptibility. They also found that auxin can modulate virulence gene expression in bacteria (Pst DC3000).
Muhammad Asyraf Md Hatta, a former graduate student in the lab of Brande Wulff at the John Innes Centre, discusses a collaborative study focused on the functional and evolutionary characterization of a wheat gene, Sr22, which confers broad-spectrum resistance to stem rust in wheat.
MPMI Editor-in-Chief Jeanne Harris has invited three early-career professionals to serve as assistant feature editors on her editorial board: Morgan Carter, Elizabeth Deyett, and Juan S. Ramirez. These editors will explore new ways to present and amplify MPMI journal articles.
The MPMI journal is going gold open access! To mark this transition, we’re unveiling a preview of the new cover. All papers submitted now will be published open access. Are you ready to publish gold open access in MPMI?
IS-MPMI has launched Connect, a website where members and nonmembers can interact with one another to increase communication, collaboration, networking, and inclusion. Visit the website to find a discussion or group and connect with colleagues around the world.
Over the next year, IS-MPMI will be holding regularly scheduled international mini-symposia to connect researchers with the latest advances and discoveries in plant-microbial biology. Members are invited to recommend topics for these workshops.

Join IS-MPMIConnect to Stay Connected
We are always looking for content for Interactions. Please contact Interactions Editor-in-Chief Dennis Halterman with questions or article ideas.


Dec 18
InterView with MPMI Journal Review Authors
​Ashley ​​Carlin
Ashley Carlin, communications coordinator for IS-MPMI, recently asked authors Ralph Panstruga and Matthew Moscou questions about their recently published review article addressing one of the MPMI journal’s Top 10 Unanswered Questions, “What is the molecular basis of nonhost resistance?” This Q&A is designed to serve as an entry point for students, and function as a useful tool for teaching. The answers will be used to develop a press release related to the article and disseminate the information to a wider audience.

1) Why were you interested in being a part of the Top 10 Unanswered Questions series, and what attracted you to this question in particular?

When the idea of the Top 10 Unanswered Questions was brought up at the IS-MPMI congress (one of the world’s most important scientific meetings in the area of plant–microbe interactions) in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2019, we were immediately fascinated by the project. Since we both have published expertise in the area of nonhost resistance, it was somewhat self-evident that we could contribute with a review article on this relevant question. We have felt for quite some time that some concepts and terms in the field are ambiguous and possibly misleading and that it would be just the right time to sum up the present knowledge, but also to clarify a few aspects and to raise a few fresh ideas.

Matthew Moscou​​
 2) Why is this an important question to ask?

Scientists, from molecular biologists to plant breeders, have noticed in nature that the majority of pathogens infect only a few species. This long-standing phenomenon has driven the motivation to study the interaction of plants and pathogens that do not normally infect them. Often this motivation is pragmatic. There are several plant species that have little, if no, resistance to a pathogen. Observing that closely related species may be resistant, scientists have been motivated to identify the biological process that makes these plants resistant. This motivation can also be more fundamental, stemming from the desire to understand the relationship between resistance to a pathogen that typically infects a plant versus related pathogens that never infect a plant. By uncovering the mechanism underlying resistance, it not only helps our understanding of the plant immune system, but it may uncover previously unknown aspects of immune signaling and regulation. Scientists ultimately hope to be able to transfer part of this knowledge into improved disease resistance against a broader spectrum of pathogens.

3) Why is this an important question to ask now?

Plant pathogens are a persistent threat to agriculture. They limit how much food is produced, where we can grow crops, and increase food waste (how many times have your strawberries become infected by grey mold?). Science has contributed substantially to reducing the impact of disease, through the development of pesticides, altering cultural practices in the field to limit the development of disease, and breeding resistance from wild crop ancestors into elite crop cultivars. Despite these efforts, the modern world undermines some of these efforts; for example, the greater accessibility to global transport around the world has contributed to the movement of plant pathogens into new environments. The field of nonhost resistance, guided by approaches that already exist in nature, sets out to identify novel ways to engineer resistance to these plant pathogens. Another aspect that makes this question a timely one is the occurrence of new plant diseases due to globalization and agricultural practices (e.g., extended monocultures). A prominent example is the recent emergence of wheat blast disease caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, which for a long time was unable to colonize wheat.

Ralph Panstruga

 4) What are some of the things we know about this topic, and what are some important things we don’t know?

We have learnt over the last two to three decades that nonhost resistance is usually a multigenic trait (i.e., a feature controlled by many genes). It is largely governed by the characteristic attributes of a given plant-pathogen constellation. Pre-existing and induced physical barriers (such as the plant cuticle, a waxy covering of the epidermis) and the secretion of antimicrobial molecules (such as toxic metabolites or defense-associated peptides) are often key factors in nonhost plant resistance. More recently, scientists have recognized the interplay of host NLR-type immune sensors and secreted pathogen effector proteins as another important determinant of nonhost resistance. NLR-type immune sensors were assumed for a long time to play a role primarily in resistance to adapted plant pathogens, while their role in defeating nonadapted (“nonhost”) pathogens was less clear. Altogether, this led to the insight that nonhost resistance essentially is a phenomenological concept that mechanistically relies on the regular armory of the plant immune system that is also active against adapted pathogens. Examples of conditional (e.g., temperature- or tissue-dependent) nonhost resistance have been described more recently, and it has become clearer that disease susceptibility and nonhost resistance are the extreme ends of a continuum, with many possible intermediate outcomes. Accordingly, due the presence of cryptic infections, we are probably not yet aware of the full host range of some pathogens. While the contribution of microbial commensals (microbes that naturally inhabit plant organs without causing any harm) to plant immunity has emerged during the past few years, their explicit role in nonhost resistance has not been demonstrated yet. Finally, our knowledge on nonhost resistance largely relies on findings obtained in a handful of (model) angiosperm plant species that are genetically very tractable. We do not know yet to what extent these insights can be generalized, especially with respect to nonangiosperms.

5) Why don’t we have the answer yet—what have been some of the roadblocks?

We usually only appreciate plant diseases when they become visible to the naked eye, i.e., in the form of more or less severe disease symptoms (e.g., wilted leaves or fungal colonies on the plant surface). Cryptic infections are invisible to the naked eye and might be hard to detect even under a microscope. DNA sequencing methods may help to recognize the undetected presence of pathogenic plant invaders. This requires ultradeep sequencing, which only became available more recently. To test the contribution of microbial commensals to nonhost resistance, we need reconstitution experiments with synthetic microbial communities (i.e., communities experimentally composed by in vitro-grown microbes) in combination with germ-free plant systems. These tools were established only recently for some model plant species and are not yet available for many agriculturally important crop plant species.

6) What are the most recent advancements in this area?

As stated above, the contribution of NLR-type immune sensors to nonhost resistance is a comparatively recent insight. So far, their involvement has only been demonstrated in nonhost plant species that are closely related to the host species of a given pathogen and to nonadapted pathogen species that are closely related to an adapted pathogen species. It remains to be seen whether their participation in nonhost resistance can also be validated for more distantly related plant and pathogen species.

7) If we were able to answer this, what might we learn?

We will appreciate better that susceptibility and resistance are the extreme outcomes of interactions between plants and pathogens, with all kinds of intermediate forms possible. We may also get to know yet undiscovered “reservoirs” of plant pathogens on some plant species, which can help to sustain disease on crop plants. If they exist, it will be important to incorporate their existence into any strategy to control a plant pathogen. We will further comprehend whether microbial commensals also contribute to resistance against nonadapted pathogens, which could form the basis for future plant protection measures. Finally, these insights will complete our picture of the plant immune system.

8) Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about this question?

This question is fundamental to understanding why some plants get infected by a particular pathogen and others do not and, vice versa, why a given pathogen can only successfully colonize a limited number of plant species, which collectively form its “host range.”

Dec 18
InterConnections: Get to Know Arnaud Djami Tchatchou

The August 2020 Editor’s Pick for MPMI is, “Dual Role of Auxin in Regulating Plant Defense and Bacterial Virulence Gene Expression During Pseudomonas syringae PtoDC3000 Pathogenesis,” in which Arnaud Djami Tchatchou and co-authors show how plant hormones like auxin are involved in disease resistance. Their results show that auxin signaling in the host affects salicylic acid synthesis and can lead to susceptibility. They also found that not only does auxin suppress host defense, but that it can also modulate virulence gene expression in bacteria (Pst DC3000).


02DjamiTchatchou_biophoto.jpgDual Role of Auxin in Regulating Plant Defense and Bacterial Virulence Gene Expression during Pseudomonas syringae PtoDC3000 Pathogenesis 

Name: Arnaud Thierry Djami Tchatchou

Current Position: Research scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, USA.

Education: B.S. and M.S. degrees in biochemistry from the University of Yaounde I, Cameroon, and Ph.D. degree in molecular biology from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.

Non-scientific Interests: Cooking, bible study, having fun with my family.

Brief-bio: I was born in a small village, Ndoungue, in Cameroon and raised up by my grandparents, who were famers and hunters. Each time my grandfather brought an animal home for food I was curious to see what was inside the stomach and the head. As a primary- and high-school student I was fascinated by biology and learning about the natural world and the ways in which organisms interact with their environment, which were more real to me than mathematics, literature, etc.... As I was growing up with my grandparents, we cultivated the ground manually to sow cassava, sweetpotatoes, maize (see photo), and many vegetable crops. This is how my passion for plants originated. Seeing my grandparents struggle with plant diseases in those days, which sometimes resulted in severe losses in agricultural yield, I was curious to know why our crops couldn’t defend themselves against those diseases. These struggles and difficulties faced by my grandparents became the motivation that led me to study and seek to understand how plants defend themselves against pathogen attacks. Since then I have been fascinated by the field of plant biology and ways to address issues of global importance, such as improving agricultural productivity and ensuring sustainable food security. As a graduate student and post-doctorate, I have sought to understand the molecular basis of plant disease resistance using a wide array of approaches, including biochemistry and molecular biology. 

Sowing maize ​with my grandmother. Behind us are grown cassava pl​​ants.

Throughout my scientific career I have used various organisms (Colletotrichum gloeosporioidesColletotrichum sublineolum, Pectobacterium carotovorum, and Pseudomonas syringae), as well as some defense priming agents (isonitrosoacetophenone, hexanoic acid, azelaic acid, and bacterial lipopolysaccharide), to study their interactions with both model plants (Arabidopsis thaliana and Nicotiana tabacum) and crop species (avocado, sorghum, tomato, and chili pepper). I have identified and characterized various defense- and virulence-related genes to uncover the mechanisms of plant disease resistance and virulence. In Prof. Barbara Kunkel’s group at Washington University in St. Louis, my research fo​cus is to investigate the roles of the plant hormone auxin (indole acetic acid [IAA]) during pathogenesis of P. syringae DC3000 on A. thaliana. I found that P. syringae uses IAA in at least two different ways to promote virulence and disease: as a plant hormone to suppress plant defenses and as a microbial signaling molecule to regulate virulence gene expression (the subject of the paper we just published in MPMI). Currently, my research focus is to translate the scientific discoveries about auxin that we made using Arabidopsis to two agriculturally important plants, tomato and cassava, using Xanthomonas campestris, an economically important pathogen. This study will provide new insights into mechanisms regulating Xanthomonas–host interactions that can be exploited to develop new strategies for protection of tomato and cassava against devastating plant diseases caused by X. campestris. During the years I spent here I have learned a lot about working with transgenic plants and gained more knowledge in microbiology with excellent mentorship from Prof. Kunkel, which I think will boost my research career.

Dec 18
InterConnections: Get to Know Muhammad Asyraf Md Hatta

02MdHatta_biophoto.jpgThe November 2020 Editor’s Pick for MPMI is “Extensive Genetic Variation at the Sr22 Wheat Stem Rust Resistance Gene Locus in the Grasses Revealed through Evolutionary Genomics and Functional Analyses.” The first author is Muhammad Asyraf Md Hatta, a former graduate student in the lab of Brande Wulff at the John Innes Centre. To read more about Asyraf, you can find his bio here​. Asyraf is now a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Agriculture, Universiti Putra Malaysia. Below is some background on Asyraf’s project that led to the publication in MPMI.

Extensive Genetic Variation at the Sr22 Wheat Stem Rust Resistance Gene Locus in the Grasses Revealed Through Evolutionary Genomics and Functional Analyses

Submitted by Muhammad Asyraf Md Hatta

Wheat stem rust caused by the fungus Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici is a major disease of wheat. The disease epidemics in major wheat-growing areas around the world pose a major threat to global food security. Fungicide application can only partly control this disease. Therefore, the deployment of resistance genes remains the preferred control method.

This has been one of the research focus areas of Wulff’s group at the John Innes Centre, UK, with which I worked during my Ph.D. studies. In our previous manuscript, we reported the cloning of the Sr22 gene, which confers broad spectrum resistance to multiple races of P. graminis f. sp. tritici, including the Ug99 race group. In a similar study, we also identified several Sr22 alleles from both Triticum boeoticum and the domesticated form of this species, T. monococcum.

Following the cloning of the gene, our industrial collaborator, the 2Blades Foundation, gathered information for their patenting and deployment strategy. The patenting process required information on the functional testing of the different Sr22 alleles driven by domesticated native and non-native 5 and 3 regulatory elements.

This patenting strategy motivated us to generate a suite of Sr22 chimeric constructs. Since one of my Ph.D. projects involved development of gene constructs using the Golden Gate cloning method, my supervisor had assigned me the task of collaborating with other colleagues from my group, as well as from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Canberra, Australia.

From that point, I was given the opportunity to lead the project, and I studied the sequence relationship between the alleles, in which I found evidence of extensive historical recombination between alleles. The analysis also revealed the greatest sequence variation in the leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domain, in line with its proposed role in pathogen recognition specificity.

We also functionally characterized three of the alleles in transgenic wheat, in which two of them were found to confer resistance to the Ug99 isolate, thus advancing our previous work on cloning the gene.

We then expanded the work to include a large-scale comparison of the Sr22 locus across monocot species. This is when we discovered the surprising large-scale expansion of the Sr22 locus in the barley and oat lineages. Based on a comprehensive search of the genomes and transcriptomes of 80 plant species, it appears that the gene is conserved among grasses in the Triticeae and Poeae lineages. All Triticeae species examined in this study contain a single copy of the gene, except barley, which has undergone complex expansions and rearrangements.

Dec 18
Three New MPMI Assistant Feature Editors Will Promote Our Research in Innovative Ways

Earlier this year, MPMI journal Editor-in-Chief Jeanne Harris spearheaded an effort to add assistant feature editors to her editorial board. She looked for creative individuals who will explore new ways to present and amplify journal articles. She was specifically interested in early-career researchers who would best benefit from a behind-the-scenes look at the journal and the chance to work with the ​MPMI editorial board.

After reviewing submissions from many qualified applicants, Harris invited Morgan Carter, Elizabeth Deyett, and Juan S. Ramirez to be assistant feature editors for MPMI. They will serve two-year terms and contribute 5–8 hours a month.

“I selected these individuals for their interest and skill in science communication, as well as for their creativity. I’m really excited to start working with them!” said Harris. “My main goal is that they will work with us to help integrate the MPMI journal more deeply into the research community.”

Harris imagines the assistant feature editors working on paper summaries for newsletters and press releases, helping with social media promotion, working on the Microgreens podcast, and writing biographies for the first authors. MPMI assistant feature editors will also help with the journal’s big campaigns, including the Top 10 Unanswered Questions in MPMI, the transition to open access, and the January focus issue. She also anticipates that they will come up with their own ideas to amplify important MPMI research.

“I would love to have an MPMI blog, more intersection with IS-MPMI’s Interactions, increased representation of diverse voices, and also stronger links to the wider international community,” Harris said. “The assistant feature editors are all enthusiastic, engaged, and full of ideas. I can’t wait to see what will come out of this!”

Meet the Assistant Feature Editors!

03AFEd_MorganCarter.jpgMorgan Carter
Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Arizona

1) Introduce yourself—your background, where you are now, and your current research focus?

I’m Morgan Carter, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona in Dr. David Baltrus’ lab in the School of Plant Sciences. I grew up in North Carolina, USA, and attended North Carolina State University for my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. My first experience with plant–microbe interactions was working with tiny banana plants and a pink, fluffy, killer fungus—I was hooked. I graduated in May 2020 with my Ph.D. degree in plant pathology from Cornell University, where I worked on bacterial effector proteins and plant resistance genes. My current research focuses on plant–fungal–bacterial interactions and how bacterial endosymbionts impact fungal behavior. It’s a relatively new area, so there is a lot to discover about how bacteria manipulate fungal hosts and how that impacts plant health!

2) Why did you apply to be an assistant editor?

As an early-career researcher, I’m still learning about journals and was hoping to get a glance at the process, from reviewing to promotion to innovation. It seemed like a great opportunity to help promote a society journal that I’ve published in and care about. I appreciate all the new initiatives to build the MPMI community, especially virtually, and wanted to be a part of that.

3) What do you hope to accomplish during your time as assistant editor and what do you most look forward to in this position?

I’ve seen how affirming it can be to early-career researchers to not only have a paper published in a respected journal but then be an Editor’s Pick or other spotlighted study. I want to find other ways to promote first authors and other early-career researchers, giving them a positive experience with the MPMI journal and community. I’d also like to practice my own science communication skills by writing accessible technical and nontechnical summaries and tweets of articles. While I’m still trying to decide the specific focus of my time as an editor (there are so many options!), I am really excited to play a part in promoting the findings of outstanding plant–microbe research and directly connecting with a global community.

03AFEd_JuanRamirez.jpgJuan S. Ramirez
Postdoctoral Fellow
Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics, KU Leuven

1) Introduce yourself—your background, where you are now, and your current research focus?

I come from Bogotá, Colombia. I am a passionate plant molecular biologist interested in the molecular mechanisms underlying plant–microbe interactions and plant responses to environmental cues. In the past I have worked in various fields related to plant–microbe interactions, including plant–bacteria symbiosis and the epigenomic regulation of immunity. Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow on the Plant–Fungi Interactions team from the Centre of Microbial and Plant Genetics, KU Leuven (Belgium). My current research project aims to identify and characterize regulators involved in induced systemic resistance (ISR) triggered by Trichoderma spp.

2) Why did you apply to be an assistant editor?

I applied to become an assistant editor because, apart from my scientific interest, I have always had a huge passion for reading and writing. I also really enjoy reviewing science and contributing to make research publications better—both content and form-wise. I am positive that as an assistant editor I will be able to contribute to MPMI with my scientific skills but also learn about the backstage behind the peer-review process and publication in science.

3) What do you hope to accomplish during your time as assistant editor and what do you most look forward to in this position?

I am aware of the need to communicate and divulge research to make it as available as possible for whoever wants or needs it. I want to increase the visibility and reach of the research published in MPMI. With the current technologies, there are plenty of tools we can use to ensure this, and I am convinced that the assistant editor initiative will have a positive impact on the journal’s trajectory, especially now that it is transitioning to open access. I look forward to seeing the results of this new collaboration and witnessing the journal grow during the process. I am also looking forward to learning from the editorial staff and their experience in the publishing world.

03AFEd_ElizabethDeyett.jpgElizabeth Deyett
Postdoctoral Researcher
University of California Riverside

1) Introduce yourself—your background, where you are now, and your current research focus?

I grew up in a town so small, my high school was more populated. After high school I went to the University of New Hampshire to become a genetic counselor but quickly changed majors to microbiology after my first microbiology course. Not really knowing what to expect in graduate school, I packed up all my worldly possessions and went on the classic Route 66 road trip with my boyfriend (now fiancé). For the last 5 years, we have immersed ourselves in California culture. Hiking in all the beautiful landscapes California has to offer, from the redwoods to Joshua Tree, we were determined to see them all! We completed our little nuclear family when we adopted a cat we named Ghost and a dog we named Yersinia (after the microbe that caused the black plague).

We both worked at the University of California Riverside. I was a Ph.D. student, and he was a lab manager. With no plant background, but the promise of pursuing microbiome research, I joined Philippe Rolshausen’s lab and quickly became the lab’s bioinformatician. My projects largely revolved around deciphering the endophytic (microbes living within the plant) microbiome of grapevines with the goal of finding healthy microbes to combat pathogens like Xylella fastidiosa, the causal agent of Pierce’s disease. I also dabbled in microbiome research of citrus and avocado, authoring five papers.

My doctoral defense was in March 2020, just days before the campus shut down. I decided to stay as a postdoc under the mentorship of Dr. Rolshausen to continue my work on Pierce’s disease biocontrols but also got involved in projects involving arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, zero-waste agriculture, and grapevine nurseries. My fiancé got a job offer in Cambridge, MA, USA, so we flew back to the East Coast. While COVID has brought on new challenges for everyone, I am grateful I am able to be happily employed as a postdoc on the West Coast while working in the East Coast.

2) Why did you apply to be an assistant editor?

Writing is always something I’ve loved doing. When I was young I wanted to be a poet, then a novelist, then a journalist. Somewhere along the way I found science, and that was the track I took from college on.

In the past few months I’ve really been forced to think about my future and potential career tracks, and that’s when I discovered you could have a career in science writing and editing. Being an assistant editor is a great opportunity to understand the ins and outs of scientific journals. I’ve been an author on scientific papers, but I’m really excited to see the other side of things. It’s a much bigger picture of the whole publishing process.

3) What do you hope to accomplish during your time as assistant editor and what do you most look forward to in this position?

I’m really looking forward to communicating with all the amazing scientists and broadening my networking. I feel sometimes in research we can become very niche-oriented and only focus on the select few who are studying the same thing as us. I sometimes forget there’s so many other amazing people doing extraordinary work out there. I’m hoping that this assistant editor position will give me the opportunity to meet some really great people and share their stories with the broader communities.

Take a look at Deyett’s website.

Dec 18
Unveiling the 2021 MPMI Cover!

MPMI_2021Cover.jpgThe MPMI journal is going gold open access! To mark this transition, we’re unveiling a preview of the new cover.

What does this change mean?

  • ​All articles published will be immediately open to all.

  • Authors retain copyright while granting the public permission to use their academic work.

  • Authors select CC BY, CC BY-NC-ND, or CC0 license at submission.

When does this change take place?

All papers submitted now will be published open access. Take a look at the Just Published section to see a list of our recent open access papers. MPMI will become fully gold open access in January 2021.

Ready to publish gold open access in MPMI?

Dec 18
The New IS-MPMI Community Website Is Live! Visit and Connect with Your IS-MPMI Family Today


On November 17, IS-MPMI launched Connect​, a website where members and nonmembers can interact with one another to increase communication, collaboration, networking, and inclusion. The discussions on IS-MPMIConnect are guided by a phenomenal group of Ambassadors with diverse backgrounds and life experiences. On November 17, Connect hosted its first virtual discussion, which was centered on topics relating to early-career professionals. Discussions at the event were led by an excellent panel representing a broad range of experiences and research backgrounds, including Dr. Pooja Saxena (Medicago, manager of product discovery), Dr. Jacqueline Monaghan (Queen’s University, assistant professor), Dr. Kevin Cox Jr. (Danforth Center, HHMI Hanna Gray Fellow), Dr. Edel Perez-Lopez (Laval University, assistant professor), and Dr. Suayb Üstün (ZMBP Universität Tübingen, group leader). A second virtual discussion on Caregiving During a Pandemic was held on December 1, during which parents shared and exchanged tips on how best to cope with caregiving responsibilities during these challenging times. An event titled Embracing Diversity was held on December 14 and was hosted by Giles Oldroyd, Simona Radutoiu, Franck Ditengou, Ayooluwa Bolaji, Ariel Herrera, Patricia Baldrich, and Charles Roussin-Léveillée from the IS-MPMI Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. On January 20, we look forward to welcoming Dr. Elison Blancaflor (Noble Research Institute), who will discuss the science and techniques behind a few of his favorite microscopy images. If you have ideas or requests for future events, you can provide feedback on the Connect website.

The development of Connect was spearheaded by Allyson MacLean (University of Ottawa). You can read more about her motivation to create a forum to facilitate networking, collaboration, discussion, mentorship, and inclusion in her article in the last issue of Interactions. Ally recruited others to help synthesize Connect, including University of Ottawa undergraduate student Rinky Sharma, IS-MPMI President Mary Beth Mudgett, MPMI journal Editor-in-Chief Jeanne Harris, Interactions Editor-in-Chief Dennis Halterman, and IS-MPMI Board members Charles Roussin-Léveillée and Patricia Baldrich. The team worked quickly to implement Ally’s vision and brought with them a collection of meaningful viewpoints, visions, and suggestions. To highlight these viewpoints, all of the members of the team were asked, “How do you expect IS-MPMIConnect to impact you and others, both personally and professionally?”

04MaryBethMudgett_photo.jpgMary Beth Mudgett:

A major challenge our IS-MPMI society faces is gathering and engaging with the people in our field or on the periphery throughout the year, for many reasons. At our last congress, we heard loud and clear from our members that they want more opportunities for networking, sharing resources, mentorship, professional development, and space to discuss and act on diversity issues. Being remote and physically disconnected due to the pandemic magnified these desires. I see Connect as a vital platform to gather us and provide just-in-time content to reconnect, meet for the first time, and provide support during a time when we are all craving intellectual and social engagement. I also see Connect as a framework for IS-MPMI to innovate in its activities as a society and include more voices of colleagues worldwide. I am grateful for Ally reaching out with her ideas, as the realization of Connect is just that—a creative initiative from our community.

04AllysonMacLean_photo.jpgAllyson MacLean:

I am very much looking forward to the opportunities that IS-MPMIConnect will provide in terms of networking and collaborating within the IS-MPMI community, but also more broadly, within the plant biology community. In fact, I have already met many amazing individuals who have helped organize this initiative and who are acting as Ambassadors for IS-MPMIConnect. One area I am very keen to explore as a new professor is how best to promote diversity and inclusion in my research group, and also in my teaching; IS-MPMIConnect offers an excellent venue for these conversations. I am excited to see what the new year will bring!

Charles Roussin-Léveillée:

Although some of us work in very diverse environments, inclusiveness is not always there. This is often due to the fact that views on this issue diverge enormously between individuals. I expect IS-MPMIConnect to disseminate the vision of members and nonmembers of IS-MPMI on a wide range of issues to help start conversations on how to find solutions to create a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable society. On a personal level, I expect to learn more about common issues that are rarely discussed in our community. Professionally, I expect my personal learning to help me create an ideal work and living environment for members of all communities.

04RinkySharma_photo.jpgRinky Sharma:

IS-MPMIConnect represents the social connections and support in which our scientific community should grow. Mentorship, group discussions, events, the passing on of knowledge—everything that makes science worth being a part of—IS-MPMIConnect will help the present we want to persist through and the future we want to create. Personally, I have been endlessly astounded by just the team itself. The perseverance, initiative, and genuine care experienced has shown to me that while difficult, academia is growing in wonderful ways that promises a bright future if nurtured. In my personal view, IS-MPMIConnect will provide a network for all, bringing scientists of all ages, countries, ethnicities, and genders together in the creation of something helpful and kind.

04PatriciaBaldrich_photo.jpgPatricia Baldrich:

Humans are social animals, and we all crave and love to feel valued by and connected with our community. Connections with other humans help us relieve stress and boost both our mental and physical health. IS-MPMIConnect, our newly created platform, will for sure help make new connections between people around the world who otherwise would be strangers. I expect that this platform will provide me, and others, the opportunity to meet and connect with people who not only have similar interests, but are also facing the same challenges—and this to me is invaluable. I look forward to giving and receiving advice and tips from colleagues and new friends.

04JeanneHarris_photo.jpgJeanne Harris:

As an international society, it’s always been hard to stay connected with colleagues. Conferences fill that gap and are wonderful opportunities for connection, but they are infrequent and not everyone can attend. The silver lining of the pandemic is that it’s forced us to think hard about what is important to us and to think outside the box. IS-MPMIConnect is a way for us to connect with colleagues around the world, finding people who share our particular interests and struggles and giving us a forum to interact. The online aspect means that people can participate across time zones, participating in discussions asynchronously or joining a Zoom panel to interact in a virtual face-to-face, despite enormous geographic distance. Also, because it’s free, IS-MPMIConnect promotes inclusion, providing opportunities for people around the world to join for whom the cost of meetings or international travel make attending an in-person meeting impossible. I am looking forward to meeting and connecting with people around the world on IS-MPMIConnect—see you there!

04DennisHalterman-photo.jpgDennis Halterman:

As an international organization, IS-MPMI members have always benefitted greatly from the society’s intellectually and experientially diverse membership, but I feel that we have struggled to promote meaningful interactions outside of the congress or those we collaborate with on a regular basis. I envision IS-MPMIConnect being somewhere members can discuss topics outside of science-y lab meetings, seminars, or conferences. Ideally, this will help everyone with personal growth, as they find and interact with others with similar interests, concerns, and goals. Professionally, Connect offers a platform for engagement, training, and networking that is accessible worldwide and throughout the year. I am looking forward to being a regular participant who will hopefully learn as much as I contribute.

Dec 18
IS-MPMI to Continue Mini-Symposia on the Latest Research Discoveries
We need your virtual research workshop ideas! Please help us by completing this short surv​ey​​.

​​ismpmi_online_events.pngOn December 2, IS-MPMI held a science workshop on Taking MPMI Discoveries to the Field that had 103 registrants. Attendees learned about recent research from speakers Jan Leach (Colorado State University), Brian Staskawicz (University of California-Berkeley), Pam Ronald (University of California-Davis), and Brian Steffenson (University of Minnesota). The event was sponsored by Microbes Biosciences, and CEO Brian Pusch introduced attendees to the goals of the company.

A second workshop on the same topic is planned for February 2021, and speakers wi​ll include Hailing Jin (University of California-Riverside), Bing Yang (Danforth Plant Science), and Nik Grunwald (Oregon State University).

Given the success of the workshop, uncertainty surrounding holding in-person meetings over the next year, and a desire to continue interactions among society members throughout the year, the IS-MPMI Board of Directors is planning to continue holding regularly scheduled international mini-symposia to connect researchers with the latest advances and discoveries in plant-microbial biology. Leading junior and senior scientists will give keynote talks, and registrants can participate in Q&A sessions and poster sessions. For organizational reasons, there is a charge for participation. We feel this is a super value for scientists at different professional stages who want to stay connected with the science and network with colleagues across continents. IS-MPMI members benefit from reduced rates for these workshops. All proceeds will be used to support society activities, awards, and projects moving forward.

To make these symposia a valuable resource for our members, we need your help in identifying topics that are important to you. Please follow this link to a short survey, where you can provide ideas for future workshops.

Thank you for your continued support of IS-MPMI.

Dec 18
Join IS-MPMIConnect to Stay Connected


IS-MPMIConnect is a virtual platform offering members and supporters an easy way to stay connected to our community and each other. Join tod​ay​ to participate in discussion groups on Work/Life Balance, Early Career Professionals, Parenting and Caregiving in STEM, and Inclusion & Diversity. We can’t wait to see you online!

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