Name: Gongjun Shi
Current Position: Research Specialist, Department of Plant Pathology, North Dakota State University, ND, USA
Education: Ph.D. degree in genomics and bioinformatics at North Dakota State University, USA; Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in olericulture at Nanjing Agricultural University, China; and B.S. degree, with honors, in olericulture at Shandong Agricultural University, China
Nonscientific Interests: Hiking, running, photography, cooking, and volunteering
Brief Bio: I was born in a small village in Shandong Province, China, and had a dream to be a medical doctor one day. However, I was not accepted into medical school, which led me to pursue degrees in olericulture and then genomics and bioinformatics. Now, I am proud to be a plant pathologist. During my years working with
Brassica, I was fascinated with the sophisticated mechanisms by which plants fertilize at the molecular level. How plants recognize self and non-self pollen particularly drew my attention. Joining the Key Lab of Southern Vegetable Crop Genetic Improvement led by
Dr. Xilin Hou allowed me to pursue this project. At the same time, how plants distinguish self and non-self molecules captured my eye for understanding how plants can effectively balance energy for both growth and defense processes.
After enrolling in the Department of Plant Pathology at North Dakota State University, I worked in
Dr. Justin Faris' lab and focused on the cloning of wheat sensitivity genes interacting with necrotrophic effectors produced by
Parastagnospora nodorum. Collaborating with
Dr. Tim Friesen's group, we found that necrotrophic specialists could hijack both PAMP-triggered immunity and the effector-triggered immunity pathway to cause disease. As a postdoc, I entered
Dr. Daniel Kliebenstein's lab at the University of California, Davis, to work on a necrotrophic generalist,
Botrytis cinerea, to understand its virulence across the plant kingdom. Currently, I am working on wheat tan spot disease and bacteria leaf streak research led by
Dr. Zhaohui Liu. I continue to leverage my plant breeding background, together with my expertise in plant pathology, to unveil many more exciting stories of phytopathogens and plant immunity.