Thomas J. Baum
Iowa State University
- What area(s) of molecular plant-microbe interactions do you feel your research has impacted most?
I think our work and that of our collaborators was instrumental in bringing plant nematology into the next phase of research questions and approaches. We led plant nematology away from pure field work aimed at identifying novel management options and toward using molecular and genomic tools to explore plant-nematode interactions.
- What advice do you have for young scientists aspiring to achieve the level of science that has major impact?
You are probably in it for the long haul. Find something you are passionate about because “(professional) life goes on long after the thrill of living (as a researcher) has gone”—John Mellencamp got it right. You need to be able to maintain your curiosity, idealism, and fun. Otherwise, you might run out of steam down the road. You need to be able to reinvent yourself and let go of old ideas to embrace new ones. Otherwise, you just might run out of funding down the road. You need to take care of your people and collaborators and be a trusted team member. Otherwise, you just might run out of friends down the road.
- 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?
My field of research was not a hot topic when I entered it. I got into it because it was exciting biologically—and it still is. I listened to Dick Hussey, University of Georgia, give a talk when I was a graduate student and that was all I needed. I knew that was what I wanted to do. Sedentary nematodes delivering proteins into their host plants to reprogram plant cells to form a feeding structure is just cool. And over the years, our field developed into one of the hottest areas in plant pathology. As it turned out, we were working on effectors all these years and we never knew it! We thought we were working on nematode “spit”—how naïve ☺.