1. What fascinates you most about plant science?
Plants are living beings so different from animals. I am fascinated by their variety of shapes and forms. They can’t escape, so they have become creative to adjust perfectly to their habitat. From tiny algae to immense trees, from carnivorous plants to aquatic species, I am always captivated by how plants co-evolved with other species and how their structure is perfectly adapted to challenging environments.
2. Tell us briefly what scientific questions you are pursuing at MPIPZ.
Cardamine plants use an explosive mechanism to disperse their seeds. The two valves that compose the fruit suddenly coil and launch seeds as far as 2 meters around the plant. I am interested in understanding how this very peculiar trait evolved and what are the genes that control it. One key feature of this mechanism is the deposition of an asymmetric secondary cell wall in the cells of the fruit valves. I study how this polar cell wall is controlled, using transcriptome analysis and gene transfers between my three favorite species: Cardamine hirsuta, Arabidopsis thaliana, and Cardamine chenopodiifolia.
3. Who has inspired you greatly in your career so far?
I have been lucky to meet many great scientists and colleagues along the way, who shaped my way of doing science. I often ask myself “How would this person solve that specific problem, what would they suggest?”. My PhD supervisor, Niko Geldner, is passionate about science and inspired me to always stay enthusiastic and challenge new ideas.
4. What did you find most challenging in your career so far?
I found it challenging to move from country to country to pursue an academic career, without being ensured to get a stable position in the end. While the experience abroad is always enriching, it is complicated to conciliate this requirement with a partner or a family.
5. How do you see your future in science and why?
I hope I can continue to do research in academia and have the chance to work on very fundamental questions. Cardamine chenopodiifolia not only has explosive fruit but can also burry a second type of fruit deep into the ground, ready for germination. How amazing is that! I would love to investigate this further.