Plant Direct Spotlights 2023 First Authors

Behind manuscripts are researchers, professors, professionals and students dedicated to advancing the field of plant science. You’ve seen our First Authors on Twitter and Facebook— now, read more about why they chose to pursue plant sciences and click on the links below the pictures to read their articles.

Ailbhe Jane Brazel

Ailbhe Jane Brazel (she/her) is the First Author of Transcriptional analysis in multiple barley varieties identifies signatures of waterlogging response published 12 August 2023. She is currently a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at Maynooth University (Ireland). In 2018, she earned a Ph.D. in Developmental Epigenetics at University of Edinburgh; in 2012, she earned a B.A. Mod in Genetics at Trinity College Dublin. Research interests include Transcriptional regulation, epigenetics, plant stress responses . Personal interests include hiking, gardening and eating. Brazel became interested in plant sciences when she realized how exciting it was to study whole organism responses to genetic or environmental perturbations.

Pipob Suwanchaikasem

Pipob Suwanchaikasem (he/him) is the First Author of Hormonal and proteomic analyses of southern blight disease caused by Athelia rolfsii and root chitosan priming on Cannabis sativa in an in vitro hydroponic system published 08 September 2023. He is currently a PhD candidate at University of Melbourne. He earned a MSc in Pharmacognosy at Chulalongkorn University in 2012, and a BSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences at Chulalongkorn University in 2010. Research interests include Plant Biochemistry, Plant Metabolomics, Plant Proteomics. Personal interests include Badminton and Soccer.

When asked why he loves plants, Suwanchaikasem  said, “Plants are so amazing. They are resilient, can grow anywhere and can adapt into different environments. With their beauty and fascinating characters, I can’t stop asking ‘How can they do that?’”

Anagha Krishnan

Anagha Krishnan (she/her) is the First Author of Simultaneous CAS9 editing of cpSRP43, LHCA6 and LHCA7 in Picochlorum celeri lowers chlorophyll levels and improves biomass productivity published 12 September 2023. Currently, Krishnan is a Research Associate at Colorado School of Mines, USA. Her education background includes a 2016 Ph.D in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at Rutgers University, New Jersey; a 2009 M. Sc. in Biotechnology at Institute of Bioinformatics and Biotechnology, Pune University, India.Research interests include Synthetic biology of microorganisms for sustainable biomass, biochemicals and bioproducts. Personal interests include dancing.

The intricate biochemistry of oxygenic photosynthesis drew this First Author to plant science, and the potential of algae to tackle major sustainability challenges deepened her fascination.

Isura Sumeda Priyadarshana Nagahage

Isura Sumeda Priyadarshana Nagahage is the First Author of NAC domain transcription factors VNI2 and ATAF2 form protein complexes, and regulate leaf senescence published 18 September 2023. Nagahage is currently a Senior Research Engineer at Umeå University, Sweden.

Education background includes: 2018 D.Eng., in Genetic Engineering at Saitama University, Japan; 2015 M.Eng., in Genetic Engineering and molecular biology at Saitama University, Japan; 2012 MBA., in Finance at Visvesvaraya Technological University, India; 2009 BSc., in Agriculture and Plantation Management, Wayamba University, Sri Lanka; 2025 BSc., in Computing with Electronic Engineering, The Open University, UK.

Research interests include Analog synthetic biology and molecular biology and biotechnology. Personal interests include traveling with family and friends, nature exploration, historical and scenic sites, and inner tranquility.

Nagahage was fortunate enough to go to Japan due to their wife’s PhD, and during that time, had the privilege of meeting Professor Yamaguchi Masatoshi at Saitama University, Japan. He believed in Nagahage and provided this First Author with the opportunity to embark on a new career in Molecular Biology. He taught Nagahage everything from fundamental concepts to conducting experiments. “If I have achieved anything in this field, the credit must undoubtedly go to him,” Nagahage said.

Mercy Nzilani Kitavi

Mercy Nzilani Kitavi is the First Author of Identification of genes associated with abiotic stress tolerance in sweetpotato using weighted gene co-expression network analysis published 03 October 2023. Kitavi is a Research Assistant at Research Technology Support Facility, Michigan State University. In 2015, Mercy earned a Ph.D in Plant Genetics at National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG). In 2008, a MSc in Biotechnology at Kenyatta University, and in 2001 a BSc in Biology and Zoology at Egerton University. Research interests include Abiotic stress, biotic stress, virus evolution, Epigenetics. Personal interests include running and mountain climbing.

Kitavi was raised in a semi-arid region practicing subsistence farming of crops such as sorghum, banana, maize, beans, cassava and raising cattle as the mainstay of a family of 11 siblings. Most often, they faced droughts and armyworms leading to crop failure and cattle loss due to lack of fee. However, in a good season, the crops yielded well, solving most problems related to food and nutrition and feed for the animals. The surplus was sold to pay our school fees. This made me fall in love with plant science. Kitavi  is mentored by Dr. Robin Buell; she has achieved so much solving problems through genomics, and Kitavi wants to achieve as much or more climbing up the professional ladder.

Cassandra Hughes

Cassandra Hughes (she/her) is the First Author of Myb-like transcription factors have epistatic effects on circadian clock function but additive effects on plant growth published 06 October 2023. Currently, she is a mom of twins! In 2023, she earned a Ph.D. Integrative Genetics and Genomics at University of California, Davis, and in 2013, a BS in Genetics at University of California, Davis. Research interests include Circadian clock and applied genetics and genomics. Personal interests include Hiking, Traveling, Video games.

Hughes became intrigued by the plant circadian clock and thought generating a quintuple mutant sounded like an awesome project.


Erman Cavusoglu 

Erman Cavusoglu (He) is the First Author of Genome-wide Identification and Expression Analysis of Na+/H+ Antiporter (NHX) Genes in Tomato Under Salt Stress published 13 November 2023. Erman is a Ph.D student at Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University. In 2022, this First Author earned a MSc in Agricultural Biotechnology at Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University. In 2018, he received a BSc in Agricultural Biotechnology at Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University. Research interests include Plant Molecular Genetics, Abiotic Stress. Personal interests include mountaineering and scuba diving.

Cavusoglu thinks plant science is essential for addressing global challenges related to food, environment, health, and sustainability, making it a critical field of research.

Brennan Hyden

Brennan Hyden is the First Author of Functional analysis of Salix purpurea genes support roles for ARR17 and GATA15 as master regulators of sex determination published 15 November 2023. Hyden is currently a Plant Trait Scientist at Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira. Hyden earned a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding at Cornell University in 2023 and a BSc in Integrated Plant Sciences at Washington State University in 2017. Research interests include Sex determination, bioenergy, trait discovery and improvement. Personal interests include weightlifting, traveling, and growing orchids.

Brennan has been interested in plants from a young age. This FIrst Author was first introduced to research during a summer internship at WSU in high school.

Naveenkumar Ramasamy

Naveenkumar Ramasamy is the First Author of Dissecting genomic regions and underlying sheath blight resistance traits in rice (Oryza sativa L.) using a genome-wide association study published 23 November 2023. Naveenkumar is currently an Assistant Professor at Karunya Institute of Technology and Sciences, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. In 2023, this First Author earned a PhD in Plant Pathology at Banaras Hindu University. In 2015, a MSc (Agriculture) in Plant Pathology at Annamalai University and in 2013 a BSc (Agriculture) at Annamalai University.

Research interests include Biotic stress (Plant Pathogens), Management of fungal disease, Host Plant Resistance. Personal interests include Cultural programs, Running, Cooking. Naveenkumar’s interests in Plant sciences is due to an inspirational mentor. Moreover, Naveenkumar remember the difficulties in farming working the field with mother during childhood.

Jen Sloan

Jen Sloan (she/her) is the First Author of Conserved cellular patterning in the mesophyll of rice leaves published 4 December 2023. Sloan is currently a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Sheffield University. Sloan earned a Ph.D Plant Biotechnology at Sheffield University in 2009, and a BSc in Plant Science at Sheffield University in 2005. Research interests include Photosynthesis, Leaf development, Plant reproduction, and Stomata.Personal interests include Singing, Playing in a Brass Band, Amateur Dramatics, and Outdoor Swimming.

This First Author loves  learning about the complexity within a leaf – how does a plant balance photosynthesis and water loss, how does it grow into a specific shape?