Recently, we’ve been profiling first authors of Plant Cell papers that are selected for In Brief summaries. Here are the first-author profiles from the December issue of The Plant Cell.

Michael Sandmann, featured first author of Targeting of A. thaliana KNL2 to centromeres depends on the conserved CENPC-k motif in its C-terminus

00720SandmannCurrent Position: PhD student in the research group “Quantitative Genetics” of Prof. Dr. Jochen C. Reif (Department of Breeding Research) at the Leibniz Institute for of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK; Gatersleben, Germany). Supervisor: Dr. Inna Lermontova.

Education: Diploma in Biochemistry at the Friedrich-Schiller-University of Jena (Germany) in 2013.

Non-scientific Interests: Cycling and other sports, cooking with friends and enjoying good food, reading political articles (not mass media) and certain manga (Japanese comics).

Close to the end of my study of Biochemistry at the University of Jena (Germany, Thuringia) I enrolled in a Biotechnology course to learn more about biotechnological methods. I applied to the lab of Prof. Dr. Ingo Schubert and since then Dr. Inna Lermontova became my supervisor. I learnt in her lab various techniques including the Gateway cloning technology for my course and I was introduced to her topic: the identification and characterization of kinetochore proteins. I generated expression clones and expressed the kinetochore protein KNL2 of Arabidopsis in bacteria, back in 2012 when the function of this plant protein was not characterized. During my diploma thesis period I contributed to the initial and functional characterization of KNL2. For instance, I verified the localization of KNL2 at centromeres and including these findings our first KNL2 paper was published. However, a deeper analysis of important domains of KNL2 was not part of the first publication. After the diploma I continued my work together with Inna to that analysis in the frame of my PhD student project. We discovered that KNL2 targets the centromere by the CENPC-k motif, a domain that was not described before. Furthermore, KNL2 contains an unspecific DNA binding capability which also the maize kinetochore protein CENPC shows. Those findings are recently published in our second KNL2 paper.

Govinal Badiger Bhaskara, featured first author of Protein Phosphatase 2Cs and Microtubule-Associated Stress Protein 1 Control Microtubule Stability, Plant Growth, and Drought Response

00847BhaskaraCurrent Position: Postdoctoral Researcher, Institute of Plant and Microbial Biology, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.

Education: PhD: Molecular and Biological Agricultural Sciences, Taiwan International Graduate Program, Academia Sinica and National Chung-Hsing University, Taiwan.

Non-scientific Interests: Trekking, Road-trips, watching movies, playing badminton and cricket.

My interest in plant biology came quite naturally to me because in my country native, India, environmental stresses occur in an unpredictable manner but the agricultural activity is intensive and dependent population is large. After M.S. study and several years of teaching experience in biology, I joined the Taiwan International Graduate Program in Academia Sinica. At Academia Sinica I could take advantage of outstanding facilities and resources for plant biology research. After lab rotations, I joined the laboratory of Paul Verslues, who was at that time a newly recruited faculty member of Academia Sinica. The Verslues laboratory focuses on drought-related sensing and signaling mechanisms. During my PhD, I analyzed stress function of Type 2C Protein Phosphatases (PP2Cs) (Bhaskara et al., 2012, Plant Physiology). During this time, we also began to look for other PP2Cs that affect drought resistance. We obtained some interesting initial results for three Clade E PP2Cs and after completing my PhD work I focused on these new PP2Cs for my postdoctoral research. During these studies in the Verslues laboratory I developed an enormous interest in plant stress biology. I am now excited to further pursue plant stress research as a postdoctoral research associate in the laboratory of Thomas Juenger at the University of Texas in Austin. In the Juenger lab, I will investigate the mechanisms of drought resistance in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a major biofuel crop. My future goal is to apply my expertise to the development of improved crop varieties in India.