The Plant Cell Features June 2023 First Authors

In the month of June, we published many groundbreaking manuscripts. 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 to read their articles.

Adrianus J Westgeest

Adrianus J Westgeest is the First Author of Leaf starch metabolism sets the phase of stomatal rhythm published June 1 2023. Currently, they are a lecturer. Westgeest earned a Ph.D. in Plant Ecophysiology and Adaptation at L’Institut Agro Montpellier in France; a M.S. in Plant Biotechnology at Wagingen University in the Netherlands; and a B.S. Plant Sciences at Wageningen University. Research interests include how genetic, physiological and biophysical processes influence plant morphology and water use. Personal interests include football, cycling, food, cooking and gardening. Westgeest’s interest in plants was encouraged by the beautiful flower and vegetable gardens at home. After high school, they were very happy to discover the study of plant sciences at Wageningen University.

Weestgeest’s main interest has been the study of plant functioning and the genetic origins of plant diversity with the goal to help farmers to produce enough food. Boosted by inspiring teachers and internships, Weestgeest pursued studies by starting a PhD on plant transpiration in grapevine and Arabidopsis with Dr. F. Pantin and Dr. T. Simonneau in the LEPSE lab (Montpellier). During the PhD, Weestgeest developed a new phenotyping pipeline to analyze stomatal movements during the day as well as the night. In this manuscript, this first author and co-authors shows how endogenous stomatal dynamics in Arabidopsis are tuned by leaf starch metabolism.

Shan He (何珊)

Shan He (何珊) is the First Author of The pyrenoid: the eukaryotic CO2-concentrating organelle published 04 June 2023. He is a Postdoc Fellow at Princeton University in Martin Jonikas’ laboratory.They earned a Ph.D. from Peking University in 2013, where they worked in Li-Jia Qu’s laboratory and investigated the regulation of mitochondria during early seed development in Arabidopsis. Research interests include how algae activates and deactivates the algal CO2-concentrating organelle to optimize CO2 fixation in changing environments. Personal interests include traveling, art, and enjoying delicious food. Shan’s interest in plants was encouraged by the beautiful flower and vegetable gardens at their home.



Chunyu Zhang

Chunyu Zhang is a First Author of Gibberellin signaling modulates flowering via the DELLA–BRAHMA–NF-YC module in Arabidopsis published 09 June 2023. Zhang has always had a strong curiosity about the plant world. Zhang is currently an Assistant Professor at South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. They received their Ph.D from The Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Research interests include phytohormone signaling and epigenetic regulation. Personal interests include music and basketball.




Mingyang Jian

Mingyang Jian is a First Author of Gibberellin signaling modulates flowering via the DELLA–BRAHMA–NF-YC module in Arabidopsis. Jian holds a Ph.D. from South China National Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences and earned a MS from Northwest A&F University. Research interests include plant development and quality regulation. Personal interests include badminton. Since Jian liked to grow flowers since childhood, they chose a major in plant science when I went to college.



Chao Tang

Chao Tang is the First Author of  Acetylation of inorganic pyrophosphatase by S-RNase signaling induces pollen tube tip swelling through repressing pectin methylesterase published 12 June 2023. Tang is currently a Postdoctoral researcher in Nanjing Agricultural University. This first author earned their Ph.D. from the College of Horticulture, Nanjing Agricultural University, in Nanjing, China. Research interests include pollen tubes and self-incompatibility. Personal interests include basketball and swimming.

Since Tang was young, they developed a strong interest in plant science with the guidance of their parents. In Nanjing Agricultural University, Tang began scientific training with Prof. Shaoling Zhang and Prof. Juyou Wu, and they raised a great interest in the swelling tips of incompatible pollen tubes in pear. They found that this phenomenon is mediated by the acetylation of the soluble inorganic pyrophosphatase PbrPPA5 during the self-incompatibility response. Acetylation at lysine 42 of PbrPPA5 by the acetyltransferase PbrGNAT1 drives its accumulation in the nucleus. PbrPPA5 directly binds to the transcription factor PbrbZIP77 to form a transcriptional repression complex that inhibits the expression of the pectin methylesterase gene PbrPME44. Downregulating PbrPME44 resulted in increased levels of methyl esterified pectins in growing pollen tubes, leading to swelling at their tips. Their research suggests a mechanism for PbrPPA5-driven swelling at the tips of pollen tubes during the SI response.

Nandhakumar Shanmugaraj

Nandhakumar Shanmugaraj is the First Author of Multilayered regulation of developmentally programmed pre-anthesis tip degeneration of the barley inflorescence published 07 June 2023. Currently, Shanmugaraj is a Guest scientist at Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben, Germany. Shanmugaraj is pursuing a Ph.D. at IPK Gatersleben/ Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany; earned a M.Sc. (Agriculture) in Biotechnology, from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), India; and has a B. Tech (Biotechnology), from TNAU, India.

Shanmugaraj’s decision to choose plant science as a career was nurtured from childhood, raised in a farming family in a small village in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. This background and the inspiring magazine articles about Norman Borlaug and MS Swaminathan read during Shanmugaraj’s ninth grade created an awareness of the significance of plant science. After earning a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biotechnology from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), India, Shanmugaraj moved to Germany to pursue a Ph.D. in the lab of Prof. Thorsten Schnurbusch at IPK Gatersleben.

Here, this first author has explored a longtime research interest in inflorescence meristem development and yield improvement. In particular, the research focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of pre-anthesis tip degeneration in barley inflorescence, a programmed process that limits grain yield potential in barley and other related cereal crops. On top of that, being fascinated with utilizing novel tools to study specific biological questions led to Shanmugaraj’s interest in applying spatial metabolomics in developing inflorescence meristem using mass spectrometry imaging techniques. In the summer of 2023, Shanmugaraj will  start a post-doc position under Prof. David Jackson at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, USA and explore open questions in the developing inflorescence meristems of maize. Research interests include Inflorescence architecture, plant meristems, gene editing, plant hormones, spatial omics, and metabolomics. Personal interests include cooking, traveling, music and sports.

Caiping Huang

Caiping Huang is a First Author of DsRNA-induced immunity targets plasmodesmata and is suppressed by viral movement proteins published 28 June 2023. Huang is a Permanent Scientist (Research Assistant) at the Institute of Plant Protection, Beijing Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences, China.  They received their PhD degree at the University of Strasbourg, France. Research interests include plant-pathogen interactions. Personal interests include tennis and swimming. Huang’s interest in plant development and plant interactions with the environment started with growing plants in a garden.


Ana Rocío Sede

Ana Rocío Sede is a First Author of DsRNA-induced immunity targets plasmodesmata and is suppressed by viral movement proteins published 28 June 2023. Sede is a Postdoc at Institut de biologie moléculaire des plantes (IBMP-CNRS), in Strasbourg, France. They received a

PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology. Research interactions include plant virus interactions during viral cell-to-cell movement; antiviral defense responses in plants and how viruses overcome these layers of immunity. Personal interests include hiking, photography, and painting.

During Sede’s studies in Argentina, they performed an internship at the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) where they began work in plant biology. Additionally, the interest was piqued in the desire to understand how plants adapt to the environment and reproduce. Afterwards, this first author decided to pursue a PhD at INGEBI-CONICET studying fertilization mechanisms in flowering plants.

Laura Elvira-González

Laura Elvira-González is a First Author of DsRNA-induced immunity targets plasmodesmata and is suppressed by viral movement proteins published 28 June 2023. Elvira-González is currently a Post-doc Researcher at Institut de biologie moléculaire des plantes (IBMP-CNRS), in Strasbourg, France. They hold a PhD in Biotechnology with a focus on plant-viruses interactions. Research interests include virus tolerance, replication and movement, as well as in the interaction with the plant. Personal interests include dance, traveling and reading.

Biology was always one of Elvira-González’s favourite subjects and it was always easy for them to understand, so they decided to study Biotechnology. During internships, this first author felt in love with the plants and with the viruses.

Jennifer Saile

Jennifer Saile is the First Author of SNF1-RELATED KINASE 1 and TARGET OF RAPAMYCIN control light-responsive splicing events and developmental characteristics in etiolated Arabidopsis seedlings published 20 June 2023. Saile is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Molecular Physiology (imP) at the University of Mainz, Germany. They did their

PhD studies at the ZMBP in Tübingen and imP in Mainz, Germany; MSc. studies in Cellular and Molecular Biology of Plants at the Center for Plant Molecular Biology (ZMBP), in Tübingen, Germany; and BSc. studies in Biology at Tübingen University, Germany. Research interests include how plants sense and integrate various environmental signals to optimize their growth and survival, RNA biology, photobiology, and plant physiology. Personal interests include traveling, baking, and hiking.

Saile’s interest in plants developed in my childhood, when their parents took them with their sister to the botanical garden on weekends. Saile  remembers being fascinated by the beauty and diversity of plants. Later, when this first author enrolled in the bachelor’s degree program in biology, they wwere introduced to the exciting world of plant physiology by two fantastic lecturers. Learning more about the physiology of plants made Saile realize that plants have evolved an amazing plasticity that helps them survive in a dynamic environment. Saile’s passion for plant science continued to grow, joining the Center for Molecular Biology of Plants (ZBMP) that gave them several outstanding and inspiring mentors.

Wei Fan

Wei Fan is the First Author of Arabidopsis PLANT U-BOX44 down-regulates osmotic stress signaling by mediating Ca2+-DEPENDENT PROTEIN KINASE4 degradation published 20 June 2023. Fan’s supervisors play a significant role in developing their interest in plant science, keeping enough curiosity and enough patience. Fan is a Ph.D. Candidate at Shanghai Jiaotong University with a Master’s degree from Shanghai University, China, and a Bachelor’s degree from Ludong University, China. Research interests include plant response to osmotic stress, including perceived and early signaling events, as well as biochemistry, mutant screening and gene expression changes at the single-cell level. Personal interests include reading and basketball.



Liu Cong(刘聪)

Liu Cong(刘聪)is the First Author of The Protein Phosphatase PC1 Dephosphorylates and Deactivates CatC to Negatively Regulate H2O2 Homeostasis and Salt Tolerance in Rice published 16 June 2023. Cong is a Postdoctor at Hunan University(湖南大学,博士后)

and also earned a Phd from Hunan University(湖南大学,博士). Research interests include analyzing the molecular mechanism of saline-alkali tolerance in rice(解析水稻耐盐碱分子机制)and personal interests include traveling, reading and watching movies(旅游,读书,看电影).  Born in a rural area, this first author has always been interested in food crops, so they chose rice as a research objective — expecting that one day to cultivate excellent rice varieties to feed a generation.

Wouter Smagghe

Wouter Smagghe is a First Author of Phase separation-based visualization of protein-protein interactions and kinase activities in plants published 28 June 2023. Agriculture and nature always intrigued Smagghe, like how plants grow and adapt themselves and interact within their ecosystem. As a scientist, Smagghe tries to further unravel this complex regulation of growth and development in order to use the gained knowledge to improve crop resilience for a climate robust future. Smagghe is a current PhD student and has a Msc in Bioscience engineering cell and gene biotechnology. Research interests include how sucrose and nutrient signaling drives source-sink communication and steering plant growth according to the environmental changes. Personal interests include competitive cycling, hiking, gardening.


Alaeddine Safi

Alaeddine Safi is a First Author of Phase separation-based visualization of protein-protein interactions and kinase activities in plants published 28 June 2023. Safi is currently a Postdoctoral researcher at VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology, Belgium. Safi holds a PhD in Plant Systems Biology from l’Institut Agro Montpellier (France); a MSc in Ecology and Environmental Toxicology from Le Mans University (France); a MSc in Genomics and Proteomics; and a BSc in Cellular and Molecular Biology and Biotechnology from the University of Sfax (Tunisia). Research interests include the role of GARP transcription factors and ROS in nitrate/nitrogen signaling pathways in plants, earliest auxin-induced phosphorylation events that control root development and branching in Arabidopsis.Personal interests include playing football, watching movies, and traveling. Safi became interested in plant science during their master’s thesis at the Institute for Plant Sciences of Montpellier under the supervision of Dr. Gabriel Krouk. Thus, they decided to perform a PhD in the same lab.