Andrew F. Bent
University of Wisconsin - Madison
- What area(s) of molecular plant-microbe interactions do you feel your research has impacted most?
From my early days, it would have to be developing and popularizing Arabidopsis and Pseudomonas syringae as experimental models for plant pathology research and discovering that R genes encode NB-LRR proteins. A number of people contributed to that early work, which opened up whole fields of discovery. From midcareer, we had some impact with “defense-no-death” work on the hypersensitive response, improvements to floral-dip Arabidopsis transformation, and findings about flagellins and FLS2 that offered broader insights into MAMPs and MAMP receptors. Recently, our work on soybean resistance to soybean cyst nematode has been pretty big, especially in the soybean and nematology fields, because the disease and the Rhg1 locus are so important in agriculture and because we found a novel mechanism, resistance through infection-site expression of toxic versions of plant housekeeping genes.
- What advice do you have for young scientists aspiring to achieve the level of science that has major impact?
Think explicitly and extensively about all the areas you could work in, looking for the things that seem like “the future”—things that may have a higher impact because of the science or the pathosystem. Find achievable higher-impact work. Form the habit of exploratory thinking and reading and of active dreaming. When you sit in a seminar or read a paper, actively think of ways that their work could be further developed into something exciting. Do the same explicit dreaming with your own work. Then be ready to do the hard work over multiple years to make it happen.
- When you were a post-doc, what had the largest influence on your decision to enter your specific research area in your permanent position? Was this a “hot topic” at the time, or did you choose to go in a different direction?
As a post-doc, we and others had set up Arabidopsis and Pseudomonas syringae as a great pathosystem for making research progress, and our R gene discovery was brand new. So when looking to form my own lab, there were a huge number of molecular plant pathology topics out there waiting to be explored, and we did have a “hot" system in place to study them. Over time, I took things in many new directions, but coming out of my post-doc, I proposed direct offshoots of my post-doctoral work to get an assistant professor job and my first independent funding.