The Plant Cell Features January 2024 First Authors

Behind the 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 to read their articles.


Leping Geng

Leping Geng is the First Author of Transcription factors WOX11 and LBD16 function with histone demethylase JMJ706 to control crown root development in rice published 08 January 2024. She is currently a Postdoctor at Anhui Agricultural University. Education background includes a 2016 Ph.D in Developmental Biology at Huazhong Agricultural University and a 2005 BSc in Biology at Xinyang Normal University. Geng’s research interests include plant development and abiotic stress. Personal interests include running and reading.

Geng was born in the countryside and her village was surrounded by beautiful mountains and plants with colorful flowers. When she became an undergraduate student, she was trained to be a high school biology teacher but was afraid of dissecting animals! Therefore, she chose plant biology for a concentration. Geng did not actually have a chance to teach in a high school because she joined Huazhong Agricultural University as a graduate student immediately after graduation. Geng deeply loves plants and continued graduate work in the broad area of plant science. She appreciates the opportunity her PhD advisor gave her to explore the fascinating plant world.

Annalisa John

Annalisa John (she/her) is the First Author of Degradation of FATTY ACID EXPORT PROTEIN1 by RHOMBOID-LIKE PROTEASE11 contributes to cold tolerance in Arabidopsis published 18 January 2024. She is currently a PhD Student at RPTU Kaiserslautern, Germany. Education background includes a 2019 MSc in Microbial and Plant Biotechnology at RPTU Kaiserslautern; and a 2017 BSc in Biology at RPTU Kaiserslautern. John’s research interests include plant physiology, abiotic stress, and chloroplasts. Personal interests include horse riding and hiking.

Through John’s  involvement in equestrian sports, she frequently encountered agricultural landscapes. Year after year, she witnessed the significant impact that weather had on crop yields and how climate change exacerbates this issue. She is fascinated by how plants, as sessile organisms, adapt to these challenges and by the success of targeted breeding in enhancing crops’ resistance to abiotic environmental factors.

Sun Ying

Sun Ying is the First Author of Histone deacetylase OsHDA716 represses rice chilling tolerance by deacetylating OsbZIP46 to reduce its transactivation function and protein stability published 18 January 2024. A Ph.D candidate in Chongqing University, Ying has studied for a Ph.D in biology at Chongqing University since 2020. In 2020, Ying earned a MSc in biochemistry and molecular biology at Southwest University; and in 207, a BSc at Northwest Normal University. Research interests include abiotic stress and personal interests include traveling and hiking. The color of the plant and the tenacity of the life force heals Sun Ying’s soul.



Yan Zhou

Yan Zhou is the First Author of Genetic regulation of self-organizing azimuthal canopy orientations and their impacts on light interception in maize published 22 January 2024. Zhouy is a Postdoctoral research associate at Iowa State University. Education background includes a 2022 Ph.D. from Iowa State University. Research interests include Quantitative genetics and crop resilience. Personal interests include Kendo, Running, and Reading.

After obtaining a M.S. in Genetics from Nanjing Agriculture University in 2012, Yan joined the industry working on male sterile genes in maize. His works helped develop a hybrid seed production system using transgenic multi-control sterility system, during which he developed a passion and an interest in maize. Since 2015, Yan has been a Ph.D. student in Genetics and Genomics at Iowa State University, working in Dr. Patrick Schnable’s Lab. His graduate research work focuses on developing image-based phenotyping platforms that can be specifically used to study inflorescence and leaf architecture in grain crops. These experiences have made Yan decide to focus his future research on utilizing quantitative genetics approaches to develop climate resilience crops.

Jian Wu

Jian Wu is the First Author of Cell-to-cell communication and initial population composition shape the structure of potato spindle tuber viroid quasispecies published 22 January 2024. Wu is an Associate professor at Ningbo University, China. Education background includes a 2019 Ph.D in  Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology at The Ohio State University. Research interests include Viral and viroid quasispecies evolution. Personal interests include Fishing.

When asked about the significance of plants, Wu says, “Plants serve as excellent models for basic science research due to their non-invasive nature, avoiding the ethical and practical considerations associated with blood-related studies.”


Ana Cecilia Aliaga Fandino

Ana Cecilia Aliaga Fandino (she/her) is the First Author of Ectopic assembly of an auxin efflux control machinery shifts developmental trajectories published 24 January 2024. She is currently a Scientific Collaborator at Changins. Education background includes a 2023 Ph.D in Molecular Genetics of Root Development at University of Lausanne; a 2018 MSc in Plant Systems Genetics at Seoul National University; and a 2015 BSc in Biotechnology at UADE. Research interests include Plant development, Plant hormone regulation, Genetics in crop plants. Personal interests include Yoga, Travelling, Bowling, Bad Jokes.

This First Author’s passion for plant science began when she was a child in Brazil — she  loved watching the trees at Floresta da Tijuca.


Sombir Rao

Sombir Rao; He/Him/His is the First Author of Nudix hydrolase 23 post-translationally regulates carotenoid biosynthesis in plants  published 31 January 2024. He is a Post-doctoral research associate at Cornell University. Sombir received his Ph.D. jointly from DBT-National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR) and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, INDIA. He also holds a Master’s degree in plant molecular biology and biotechnology from Haryana Agricultural University in India. As a post-doctoral research associate in Dr. Li Li ‘s laboratory at Cornell University, Sombir is interested in exploring the regulatory controls of carotenoid accumulation in plants and developing novel genetic strategies for the improvement of crop traits. Personal interests include playing volleyball and reading religious scriptures.

Sombir grew up in a farming family in Gagarwas, a small village in Haryana, India. His farming background nurtured his interest to pursue a career in plant science. After earning his master’s degree in plant molecular biology and biotechnology at Haryana Agricultural University in India, Sombir joined the laboratory of Dr. Saloni Matur at NIPGR and investigated the interplay of Heat Stress Transcription Factors and miRNAs in regulating heat stress responses in tomatoes.

Guo-Bang Li

Guo-Bang Li (he) is the First Author of Rice false smut virulence protein subverts host chitin perception and signaling at lemma and palea for floral infection published 31 January 2024. Li is currently a Postdoctor at Sichuan Agricultural University. His education background includes a Ph.D in Plant Pathology at Sichuan Agricultural University (2021) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Seed Science and Engineering (2015).

Research interests include Plant Pathogenic Microorganism, Pathogen secrete proteins. Personal interests include Cooking and handwriting. When asked why he studies plants, Li says, “Plant science can help oneself understand the mysteries of nature and better utilize and protect plants”.


Ye Tian

Ye Tian (she/he) is the First Author of The zinc finger protein DHHC09 S-acylates the kinase STRK1 to regulate H2O2 homeostasis and promote salt tolerance in rice published 5 January 2024. Tian is a Postdoctor at Hunan University. Her education background includes a 2022 Ph.D  from Hunan University, a 2017 MSc from Lanzhou University and a 2014 BSc from Lanzhou University. . Her research interests are Post-translational modification and abiotic stress. Personal interests include painting and travel.

Born in a rural area, Tian has always been interested in food crops, so she chose rice as a research object. She expects that one day she can cultivate excellent rice varieties to feed a generation.