Recognizing Plant Physiology authors: Liza Esther Alexander

Liza Esther Alexander, first author of Maize Glossy2 and Glossy2-like Genes Have Overlapping and Distinct Functions in Cuticular Lipid Deposition

Current Position: Bioscience Innovation Postdoctoral Fellow, Roy J. Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology, Iowa State University

Education: Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (Iowa State University), M.Sc in Biotechnology (Mahatma Gandhi University)

Non-scientific Interests: photography, travelling, music, and gardening

Brief biography: Trials of witnessing my sibling scaling through cancer and bone marrow transplant inspired me to go into research. I have had the opportunity to study plant related sciences, and human diseases and their treatments, all fueled by a keen interest in metabolic pathways and more broadly by their social and economic impacts. The deep thirst for the vast unknown and a love for solving puzzles drove me to obtain my Ph.D. from Iowa State University (ISU) under the mentorship of Dr. Basil J. Nikolau, where I delved into the field of plant lipid metabolism and analytical mass spectrometry methodologies. My core project focused on specific genes from the uncharacteracterized Clade-II class of BAHD acyltransferase enzymes. My Ph.D. work revealed the overlapping functions and evolutionary divergence of the maize Glossy2 and Glossy2-like genes in plant cuticular lipid deposition using mass spectrometry driven technologies. Through this work we drew new insights into the BAHD acyltransferase family and the intricacies of the cuticular lipid metabolic network. With a continued interest in metabolism, I joined Dr. Reuben Peter’s group as an ISU Bioscience Innovation Postdoctoral Fellow. My work focuses on the structural elucidation of specific cytochromes P450 enzymes that play key roles in the biosynthesis of diterpenoids, a group of secondary metabolites largely produced by plants. An understanding of this synthesis could lead to advancements in agriculture and also in the development of medicines based on diterpenoids.