Katharina Melkonian

PhD student

  1. What fascinates you most about plant science?

What fascinates me most about plant science is the incredible diversity of plants and how they have evolved. Ranging from unicellular algae to the largest trees, plants exhibit countless interesting features that can be exploited in various areas of common interest. Understanding complex traits at the molecular level will be key to improve performances of plants in the future, and I am fascinated by how plants sense and react to their environment.

  1. Tell us briefly what scientific questions you are pursuing at MPIPZ

In nature, plants are surrounded by a multitude of different microbes, some of which can be harmful to the plant and cause disease upon infection. To defend themselves, plants have evolved a complex immune system and deploy immune sensors at the cell surface that perceive microbial molecules and initiate rapid defense responses. At the MPIPZ, I study basic molecular mechanisms in plant immunity in the common liverwort Marchantia polymorpha and I try to identify and characterize key players involved in cell surface immune signaling.

  1. What/who has inspired you greatly in your career so far?

Over the years I have met many great scientists at all career levels from all over the world that have inspired me in multiple ways. In particular, I have always looked up to researchers who were also excellent mentors in addition to being outstanding scientists and I try to follow their example for my own career. I am inspired by interdisciplinary projects that unite scientists from different areas of expertise to address a common research question from different angles and thereby provide new insights for the scientific community.

  1. What do/did you find most challenging in your career so far?

To me, it was most challenging not to compare the progress and achievements in early stages of my projects to those of other colleagues in similar positions. Every project is different and, in many cases, one has to be very patient until the efforts pay off eventually.

  1. How do you see your future in science and why?

Curiosity and passion for basic research are major drivers in my professional life and I enjoy teaching a lot. Therefore, I would like to establish myself as an independent research scientist in academia in the future.

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