University of California
- What area(s) of molecular plant-microbe interactions do you feel your research has impacted most?
I think my research has the most impact on the areas of cross-kingdom RNAi and how this affects host-pathogen communications and of small RNA and epigenetics-mediated regulation in plant-pathogen interactions.
- What advice do you have for young scientists aspiring to achieve the level of science that has major impact?
Identify a research topic or area that interests you the most, then work hard on it. It is also important to be persistent once you start a project. Don’t give up easily or get frustrated when your experiments don’t work. It is always very helpful to find a way to improve your experimental design and to find multiple alternative approaches to address the problem and confirm your findings.
- 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?
I have always been interested in developing eco-friendly strategies and effective means to increase the quality and production of crops. During my post-doctoral training in Barbara Baker’s lab at the Plant Gene Expression Center, at the University of California-Berkeley, I used a virus-induced gene silencing approach to dissect the signal transduction pathway of Tobacco mosaic virus-resistance gene N, which not only attracted me to the plant defense and small RNA world but also allowed me to gain experience in all the small RNA techniques. At that time, the important role of small RNAs in plant development was just emerging, but very few labs were working on the role of small RNAs in stress responses, especially in the field of plant immune responses against bacterial and fungal pathogens. After I got my independent position, I felt that it would be an excellent opportunity for me to start a new research direction—regulatory role of small RNAs in plant immunity—instead of continuing working on the hot topic “plant resistance genes.” This research area is my passion and I will continue to work on improving our crops and food for many years to come.