Recognizing our “first authors” September 2015

Recognizing our Authors is a regular blog series that profiles ASPB’s most highly cited authors. Recently, we’ve been profiling first authors of Plant Cell papers that are selected for In Brief summaries. Here we present the first-author profiles from September’s issue of The Plant Cell.

Jonathan Flowers, featured author of Whole-Genome Resequencing Reveals Extensive Natural Variation in the Model Green Alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtiiJFlowers

Current Position: Research Scientist, New York University and New York University Abu Dhabi.

Education: Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, M.S. Louisiana State University.

Non-scientific Interests: Fossil hunting, birdwatching, antique flags, U2, LSU Tiger football.

My research has focused on a diverse collection of research questions in population genetics and molecular evolution. This work has included modeling the effects of natural selection on nucleotide diversity and identifying the evolutionary forces operating on genes in the context of biological networks. The basis for our present work was that studies of green algae including Chlamydomonas have yet to widely exploit intra-specific diversity in environmental isolates to advance research in many potential areas. We were primarily interested in characterizing the extensive diversity in natural populations of Chlamydomonas and discovering naturally-occurring loss-of-function alleles that may be of broad interest to algal researchers. When our research group, including Michael Purugannan and Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani, learned that multiple conspecific strains of C. reinhardtii are maintained at the Chlamydomonas Resource Center at the University of Minnesota, we decided to work with Chlamydomonas researchers to generate a resource for studies of intra-specific diversity in an important model species while advancing our own interests in illuminating the mechanisms that maintain natural variation in plants and their relatives. We hope that the whole genome resequencing resource we present is a step toward enabling new discoveries in Chlamydomonas much the same way genome sequencing of diverse ecotypes led to significant advances in studies of Arabidopsis.

Sean Gallaher, featured author of Chlamydomonas Genome Resource for Laboratory Strains Reveals a Mosaic of Sequence Variation, Identifies True Strain Histories, and Enables Strain-Specific Studies alexisseaneng_095 copy – Version 3

Current Position: Researcher in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Education: Ph.D. in Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Non-scientific Interests: Bicycling, travel, baseball, preparing and consuming good food.

I completed my Ph.D. dissertation studies in the laboratory of Arnold Berk. There, I developed a virus-based gene therapy vector system, and demonstrated that it could confer persistent in vivo transgene expression in the livers of mice. The work was engaging, but I was ready to take on a completely different challenge: preferably one involving a model organism that does not squeak. I was initially attracted to working with algae for its promise as a feedstock for biofuel. However, I was also curious to see if my talent with computers could be applied to matters of bioinformatics. Fortunately for me, the opportunity to explore both interests came when I took a joint post-doctoral appointment in the laboratories of Sabeeha Merchant and Matteo Pellegrini. I was impressed with their proven track record of coupling the latest research technologies with a solid grounding in algal biology. Since joining their groups, I have collaborated on genomic sequencing projects in bacteria, diatoms, and algae, and RNA-seq studies in organisms from fruit flies to trypanosomes. But the one that I enjoy working on the most is Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. From phototaxis to metal homeostasis to sexual reproduction, it is fascinating how clever a single-celled creature can be. In the present study, we searched for a genetic basis for the high degree of phenotypic diversity that we have observed among so-called “wild type” strains. We found that the genetic diversity of C. reinhardtii was far greater than anticipated. In fact, the most commonly used strains in the Chlamydomonas community are just a few generations removed from a cross of two cells that were as genetically divergent from each other as a human and a chimpanzee. I hope that the community will benefit from the resources that we have made available with this work.

William J. Armour, featured author of Differential Growth in Periclinal and Anticlinal Walls during Lobe Formation in Arabidopsis Cotyledon Pavement CellsWilliamArmour

Current Position: Postdoctoral researcher, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Australia.

Education: PhD (2013) in Plant Cell Biology and BSc (Hons I 2009) in Biology and Plant Science at University of Sydney, Australia.

Non-scientific Interests: Snorkeling, traveling, learning Spanish, model trains and cooking Mexican food.

For my undergraduate honors thesis, I worked in Prof. Steve Simpson’s lab investigating how locusts mechanically break up grass leaves into small particles during ingestion. I was surprised to find that their ability to create higher particle surface area to aid nutrient absorption depended on the grass species and the age of the insect. This research ignited my passion for microscopy and computer image analysis. During this work I saw lobed pavement cells at the margins of grass leaves where younger instar locusts particularly struggled to bite into the leaf. I found the shape of these cells curious and worked on them with Prof. Robyn Overall and Dr. Debbie Barton for my PhD. We realized that pavement cells would be an ideal system to study how relatively complex cell shapes form by following the same cells during their development. Using an airbrush (which I normally use to paint model trains) I applied fluorescent paint dots to the surface of Arabidopsis cotyledons and followed the development of the shape of individual pavement cells. Later, I was excited to image the arrangements of the cytoskeletal filaments during the development of these cells.

Congratulations all. Coming soon, first-author profiles from the October issue of The Plant Cell.

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