Plant Physiology Spotlights July First Authors

In July, we published many innovative manuscripts in Plant Physiology. Behind those 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.

Lei Yang

Lei Yang is the First Author of Jasmonate biosynthesis enzyme allene oxide cyclase 2 mediates cold tolerance and pathogen resistance published 01 July 2023. Yang is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Nanjing Agricultural University. From 2017-2020, Yang earned a M.S. in Grassland Science from Inner Mongolia Agricultural University. From 2011-2015 Yang earned a B.S. in Horticulture from Inner Mongolia Agricultural University. Research interests include Environmental stresses, alfalfa responses to low temperature to explore the cold tolerance mechanisms. Personal interests include traveling and reading.

Yang started to be interested in plants in junior high school. Yang’s mother started germinating soybeans, fascinating and peculiar plants, and Yang learned from how to germinate soybeans. At that time, it was a hobby, but then, this first author decided that they wanted to know more about plants, grass, and their ability to adapt to adversity and grow, which set the direction for future studies.

Wenzen Cheng

Wenzen Cheng is the First Author of Sequence variations affect the 5′ splice site selection of plant introns published 03 July 2023. Currently, Cheng attends Beijing Forestry University and is pursuing a PhD. Previously, Cheng earned a Bachelor of Engineering in 2017 from Henan Agricultural University. What inspires this first author is beautiful nature and flowers. Research interests include plant molecular biology and personal interests include travel and photography.




Jin Zhang

Jin Zhang is the First Author of Overexpression of REDUCED WALL ACETYLATION C increases xylan acetylation and biomass recalcitrance in Populus published 03 July 2023. Currently, Zhang is a Professor at Zhejiang A&F University(浙江农林大学,教授). From 2009-2013, he earned a PhD at the Chinese Academy of Forestry. (2009-2013 中国林业科学研究院,博士). Research interests include molecular design breeding of forest trees(林木分子设计育种)and personal interests include music and movies(音乐、电影).


Xueting Wang

Xueting Wang is the First Author of Cucumber abscisic acid 8′-hydroxylase Csyf2 regulates yellow flesh by modulating carotenoid biosynthesis published 03 July 2023. Wang is pursuing a PhD in vegetable science at Yangzhou University. From 2015-2018, Yang earned a Master in vegetable science from Shanxi Agricultural University. From 2011-2015, Yang earned a Bachelor’s from Shanxi Normal University. Research interests include genetic breeding of cucumber fruit quality and personal interests include cooking, reading and travel.

Since 2019, Wang has been studying in the School of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture of Yangzhou University under the guidance of Professor Xuehao Chen and Associate Professor Xuewen Xu. In this study, Wang and co-authors identified a cucumber yellow flesh mutant yf-343 and performed research to understand its genetic mechanism. Through carotenoid quantification, gene mapping, RNA-seq, and functional gene characterization, they found Csyf2 encoding abscisic acid 8′-hydroxylase as the candidate gene. Mutation in the promoter of Csyf2 led to the increase of ABA content, further affecting the expression of ABA signal transduction and upstream carotenoid synthesis genes. These changes may affect higher β-cryptoxanthin and lower lutein accumulation, causing the yellow flesh phenotype of yf-343. Our work extended the understanding of cucumber fruit flesh color and quality. Wang and co-authors believe the current findings will serve as an excellent genetic resource, making inroads for the future molecular improvement of cucumber fruit quality.

Hongbing She

Honbing She is the First Author of Evolution of the spinach sex-linked region within a rarely recombining pericentromeric region published 05 July 2023. She is an Assistant Professor currently, and earned a Joint Ph.D from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and Nanjing Agricultural University in 2022. Additionally, She earned a Master’s from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in 2018 and a Bachelor’s from Northwest A&F University in 2015. Research interests include sex-determining and plant genomes. Personal interests include cooking and fishing.



Jo-Wei Allison Hsieh

Jo-Wei Allison Hsieh is the First Author of Rice transformation treatments leave specific epigenome changes beyond tissue culture published 05 July 2023. Currently, Hsieh is a PhD candidate in Genome and Systems Biology at the Academia Sinica and National Taiwan University, Taiwan. Research interests include implementing bioinformatic strategies to tackle complicated genetic-epigenetics interaction associated with transcriptional regulation in plants. Personal interests include travel and volleyball.

A summer internship at Dr. Shu-Hsing Wu’s Lab in Academia Sinica of Taiwan ignited Hsieh’s passion for plant science. This internship provided an opportunity to conduct the molecular analysis of two interacting proteins using the AGROBEST transient assay. It was Hsieh’s first experience in molecular biology and lab life. This invaluable experience broadened Hsieh’s knowledge and also enhanced my practical skills in experimental design, execution, scientific presentation, and critical thinking. Inspired by this internship, Hsieh decided to pursue further studies in plant science during a master’s degree. Research focused on investigating the roles of miRNA in the response to wounding in sweet potato. After that, eager to continue exploring epigenetic mechanisms in plants and approach this by bioinformatics, Hsieh joined Dr. Pao-Yang Chen’s Lab at Academia Sinica of Taiwan to pursue a PhD degree in September 2018. Throughout the doctoral studies, Hsieh’s focus has been on exploring how the dynamic interactions between genetics and epigenomes involved in plant development as well as their response to stress, taking a genome-wide perspective.

Maho Yamashita

Maho Yamashita is the First Author of The apiosyltransferase celery UGT94AX1 catalyzes the biosynthesis of the flavone glycoside apiin published 11 July 2023. Yamashita is currently a Graduate student at Ritsumeikan University and earned a BSc in Biotechnology at Ritsumeikan University in 2021. Research interests include Function and biosynthesis of specialized metabolites. Personal interests include playing musical instruments.

In high school, Yamashita learned that plant growth, color, and chemical composition vary greatly depending on the wavelength of light. This was a surprise to her, and sparked a strong interest in the field of plant research.


Daewon Kim

Daewon Kim (he/his) is the First Author of Salt stress releases extracellular ATP to activate P2K1-mediated purinergic signaling and inhibit plant growth published July 28 2023.  Kim is currently a Research scientist/Academic, at the University of Missouri. In 2014, Kim earned a Ph.D in applied life sciences at Gyeongsang National University. In 2005, he earned a BS in Biochemistry at Gyeongsang National University. Research interests include plant immunity and plant stress responses. Personal interests include watching movies, traveling. Daewon is inspired by Dr. Gary Stacey at the University of Missouri-Division of Plant science and Technology.


Yayao Zhang

Yayao Zhang (She/her) is the First Author of A truncated ETHYLENE INSENSITIVE3-like protein, GhLYI, regulates senescence in cotton published 11 July 2023. Currently, Zhang is at Zhejiang University, in Hangzhou,China. Zhang earned a Ph.D in Agriculture at Zhejiang University in 2018. Research interests include precision breeding of corn. Personal interests include running, traveling, and baking.

Zhang has loved raising plants since she was young, and she yearns for nature. She first encountered plant science during undergraduate studies and participated in some innovative projects for college students, which ignited her passion for scientific research.


Audrey Rui Qi Lim

Audrey Rui Qi Lim (she/her) is the First Author of B-BOX-DOMAIN PROTEIN32 modulates seed oil biosynthesis in Arabidopsis by interacting with WRINKLED1 published 19 July 2023. She is currently a PhD student at Nanyang Technological University. In 2022, she received a BSc of Science in Biological Sciences at Nanyang Technological University. Research interests include understanding the molecular mechanism of oil biosythesis in plants. Personal interests include traveling and enjoying nature.




Priscille Steensma

Priscille Steensma (she/her) is the First Author of PYRIDOX(AM)INE 5′-PHOSPHATE OXIDASE3 of Arabidopsis thaliana maintains carbon/nitrogen balance in distinct environmental conditions published 15 July 2023. She is currently a Postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki. In 2022, Steensma earned a Ph.D at University of Geneva; In 2015, she earned a M.Sc at Leiden University; and in 2012, a B.Sc at University of French Guiana. Research interests include plant metabolism and food sustainability. Personal interests include badminton, karaoke, and boardgames. Growing up in French Guiana, her fascination for plants used in ethnopharmacology and a quest to understand why is what led Steensma to plant sciences.



Yi Wei

Yi Wei (she/her) is the FIrst Author of Transcription factor VvWRKY70 inhibits both norisoprenoid and flavonol biosynthesis in grape. Wei is pursuing a Ph.D in Food Science at China Agricultural University. She also received a B.Eng Viticulture and Enology Engineering at China Agricultural University in 2017. Research interests include grapevine, transcription factor, and flavour. Personal interests include dancing, gardening and travelling.

Wei has been interested in gardening since she was young, and found that different plants have differences in the regulation of their own metabolites, which intrigued her. This was the driving factor behind her studying and understanding plants.


Miguel Ezquerro

Miguel Ezquerro (he/him) is the FIrst Author of Overlapping and specialized roles of tomato phytoene synthases in carotenoid and abscisic acid production  published 20 July 2023. Ezquerro is currently a Researcher at Preservation and Improvement of Valencian Agro-diversity University Research Institute (COMAV), in Valencia (Spain). In 2022, he earned a PhD in Plant Biology and Biotechnology at Autonomous University of Barcelona. In 2017, he received his MSc in Plant Biotechnology from Polytechnic University of Valencia, and in 2012 Miguel earned a BSc in Biotechnology from the University of Zaragoza.

During Ezquerro’s PhD, he studied the regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis in tomato plants by creating new CRISPR-Cas9 defective mutants. Nowadays, in his new position, Ezquerro and coworkers are involved on an European project focused on the breeding of the cucurbit family against abiotic stresses, above all water and salt stresses. Ezquerro’s research interests include breeding of the cucurbit family against abiotic stresses and regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis in tomato plants. Personal interests include Formula 1, Tennis, and reading. Esquerro plays tennis whenever he can. Also, he really enjoys reading before sleeping and right now is reading  “In the Midst of Winter” written by Isabel Allende. He has more than 15 plant species at his house, and always felt that plant science was unfairly underestimated compared to other branches of Biotechnology.

Ross Etherington

Ross Etherington is the First Author of Nt-acetylation-independent turnover of SQUALENE EPOXIDASE 1 by Arabidopsis DOA10-like E3 ligases published 10 July 2023.

He is currently a Plant Scientist, at MoA Technology Ltd. Etherington’s research focussed on clarifying the significance of the Ac/N-degron pathway of targeted protein degradation in plants. Through identification of a substrate, his recent paper examines the conservation of DOA10-like E3 ligases, that are reported to specifically target Nt-acetylated substrates in other organisms.

Personal interests include tennis, football and dog walking. Research interests include clarifying the significance of the Ac/N-degron pathway of targeted protein degradation in plants.

Growing up on a tree nursery, plants have always been a part of this first author’s life. He likes to question everything, and so exploring the reasons why plants do the things they do is something Ross loves working on.

Varsha Pathare

Varsha Pathare is the First Author of Altered cell wall hydroxycinnamate composition impacts leaf and canopy-level CO2-uptake and water-use in rice published 28 July 2023. She is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Genomic Biology, University of Illinois, USA. In

2018, Pathare earned a Ph.D in Plant Science at Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University.

She is a botanist and a plant ecophysiologist interested in advancing our understanding about plant-climate interactions and in using this information to predict and combat the impacts of climate change on our natural and managed ecosystems. Central to Pathare’s approach is the integration of plant traits and processes associated with CO2-uptake, and water-use across the scales of space, time, and biological organization. She works on diverse plant species belonging to both C3 and C4 photosynthetic pathways and conducts field and climate-controlled experiments while leveraging on a variety of techniques from the field of plant ecophysiology, biochemistry, stable isotope ecology, modeling, and statistics. Currently, at Institute of Genomic Biology (University of Illinois), Pathare studies how modification of stomatal traits affects leaf and canopy water-use in legumes.

Personal interests include gardening, spending time with her kids and cooking Indian food. A daughter of a dryland farmer, Pathare’s desire to contribute to our fight against climate change has been the motivation behind her career and interest in plant science.