Brian St. Aubin: Plant Direct First Author

Brian St. Aubin, first author of “Regulatory dynamics distinguishing desiccation tolerance strategies within resurrection grasses”

Current Position: Computational Biologist, Pairwise

Education: PhD in the lab of Prof. Gregg Howe (Michigan State University), B.S. in Genetics and Plant Biology with a minor in Bioengineering (University of California, Berkeley)

Non-scientific Interests: Biking, Woodworking, Pottery

Brief bio: The regulation of processes that affect what we call plant development fascinate me. The control of cell size, biochemistry restricted to specific cells, responses to the environment, structural rearrangements, dynamic control of cellular division. This may be intricate way the bit of tissue that defines the border between a maize leaf and sheath arises, or the chemical and structural novelties that differentiate the cells of trichomes from other cells, or the coordination required to successfully survive drying and rehydration.

A better understanding of how biochemical processes are regulated in a developmental framework can guide discovery of the genes involved, the transcription factors that are regulating their expression, and the environmental cues that affect those activities. When trying to understand how a plant could defy death, we investigated the gene expression difference between when the plants were active and when dry. But, since this is a dramatic physical process that often damages the DNA we also were concerned with how the DNA was physically arranged. Importantly we were concerned if the DNA was more closed everywhere and that was leading to the life-saving protection, or was it more specific with open regions moving, where some DNA is even more exposed when dry.

I feel that inquiries like this get to the heart of biology and drives our understanding of what life is a little bit further.