Recognizing Plant Cell authors: Dereje Worku Mekonnen

Dereje Worku Mekonnen, co-first author of UGT76B1, a promiscuous hub of small molecule-based immune signaling, glucosylates N-hydroxypipecolic acid and balances plant immunity

Current Position: Postdoctoral researcher at Helmholtz Zentrum Müchen (contract now ended)

Education: PhD at the University of Cologne, Germany; MSc at Vrije University of Amsterdam,  Netherlands; BSc at Alemaya University, Harar Ethiopia

Non-Scientific interests: Soccer, involvement in social activities

Brief Bio: I started my research career in 2003 as a junior researcher at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) in the department of plant biotechnology, during which my primary task was to optimize tissue culture protocols for aseptic propagation of commercially relevant crops. In 2006, I joined Vrije University of Amsterdam as a Master student in Biomolecular Sciences following the NFP fellowship award. During my MSc study, I spent 7 months at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, USA, in the group of Prof. Hans J. Bohnert, with whom I did my internship. My MSc project focused on understanding the role of the Arabidopsis thaliana and Thellungiella halophila HKT1 proteins in salt stress responses. After the completion of my MSc study, I won the IGSDHD fellowship award from NRW, Germany, in 2009 and joined University of Cologne as a PhD student. My PhD work focused on characterizing the role of GABA, a non-protein amino acid, in abiotic stress responses of plants. Following a short spell at EIAR working as molecular breeder on barley, I joined Helmholtz Zentrum München in 2017 as postdoctoral researcher. During my three years stay at Helmholtz München, I worked on the role of small molecule glycosylation in plant disease responses. UGT76B1 was the focal enzyme and amino acid derived small molecules, ILA and NHP, were target compounds in my research.