Plant Scientist Highlights: Sophien Kamoun

Sophien Kamoun is our plant scientist highlight of the month. He grew up in Tunisia and during the course of his studies, he has lived in Paris, the Netherlands, the United States, and now the United Kingdom. He is active on social media, pioneering ways to connect with other scientists and the public.

Dr. Kamoun was became interested in science at a young age, wanting to understand the world around him. He found that he enjoyed the rigorous approach of molecular biology, and he began to study genetics. He combined this with his original passion of understanding how the world works by taking courses in evolution. But, staying in the lab wasn’t enough. Dr. Kamoun wanted to bridge the gap between the lab and practical applications. He focused his research on the immediate impact of plant pathogens and blight on global food security. Recently, his lab has done work on potato and wheat blight.

Through his studies in different countries and his own experience as an immigrant, Dr. Kamoun has a global view of science. He has said that, as an immigrant, the bar to succeed tends to be higher. He was motivated to excel in order to stand out, yet felt the freedom to develop his own personality since, as an immigrant, “people expect you to be different, you may as well be yourself.”

Dr. Kamoun is a proponent of the usage of preprints. He believes that preprints allow researchers to communicate early, receive feedback from a large community to better their science, build confidence and create a record of publications for young scientists, and to keep the cost of making science available down. You can read more about his views on preprints here. He also has pioneering the usage of social media in research. In 2016 he used social media to crowdsource data analysis for a paper on wheat blast. Preliminary data was made available and Dr. Kamoun used social media to spread the word. Labs across the world came together to analyze the data and the paper was published within months. You can hear more about the paper on the Taproot podcast.

For more information on Dr. Kamoun, read “Stranger in a strange land: the experiences of immigrant researchers” by Genome Biology, an interview with Dr. Kamoun by CropLife International, or “InterView with Sophien Kamoun” by Jixiang Kong.

You can also find Sophien Kamoun on Twitter (@kamounlab).

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