Sophie-Asako Xerri


1. What fascinates you most about plant science?

During my studies I got the impression that plants are too distant from humans to be relevant and consequently often overlooked. Yet, many plants are a wonderful system for addressing very fundamental questions in biology, in addition to their own biology being fascinating. I am very drawn by how plant science allows to connect many scientific fields as such.


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

I am a population geneticist so I am interested in understanding the evolutionary dynamics that shape some of the populations that we can observe today. Currently at the MPIPZ, I am focusing on understanding the species history of Arabidopsis thaliana. I address questions such as how A. thaliana individuals arrived where we found them or whether some are better adapted to their environment than others.


3. Who has inspired you greatly in your career so far?

It is difficult to pin point a person; I would say that I have been inspired by many scientists I have met in my life, by seeing and experiencing their passion and enthusiasm. I am very fond of the so-called “diagonal relationships”: people who are not directly above me, nor directly under, but “diagonally”, such as the many PhD students I met before being a PhD student myself, or seminar speakers I got to talk to.


4. What did you find most challenging in your career so far?

What I find the most challenging - albeit fun at the same time- is establishing communication with scientists of different backgrounds, both culturally and academically. Our institute is a good example of such diversity: some of our colleagues are physicists while others are botanists. This really motivated me to working on being as clear and unambiguous as possible when I communicate, especially in science. I am learning every day how to keep professional but friendly relationships with my international colleagues too.


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

I hope I can be a scientist and a researcher for life. There are so many fundamental scientific challenges that I would love to contribute addressing. However, I am also interested in keeping close ties with scientific museums and botanical gardens. Coming back to the previous question, I had been greatly inspired by the science presented there in my younger years. I would love to help this access to science becoming less of a privilege of large city children.

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