My early training as a biologist, during my BSc (Biochemistry) and MSc (Biotechnology) degrees, strongly biased me to think of organism responses at the cellular and molecular level. It was only during my PhD (University of Calgary, Canada) that I started to appreciate fully how carefully orchestrated cellular signaling events between tissues and organs modify and control whole plant behavior. What started as an investigation of the biochemistry of cell wall proteins, transformed serendipitously into a question that addressed whole plant ecophysiology and the fascinating shade-induced phenotypic plasticity (shade avoidance) displayed by ecotypes of the plant Stellaria longipes. It amazed me then as a novice plant biologist how identical environment signals could render completely opposite behavior in plants possessing the same genetic blueprint, but from a different habitat. Shade avoidance is considered one of the most striking examples of plant phenotypic plasticity. However, identical avoidance responses are displayed by certain plant species when flooded. The mechanisms mediating this submergence escape response in another genus Rumex displaying tremendous plasticity was the focus of my post-doctoral research at Utrecht University. This started my current path on understanding how plants cope with flooding stress, a frequently overlooked but very relevant abiotic stress.
Flooding stress biology: Most terrestrial plant life is sensitive to flooded (wet) conditions. Limited gas exchange underwater restricts photosynthesis and respiration eventually killing the flooded plant. Flooding-induced changes in gases such as oxygen and the plant hormone ethylene can trigger a signaling cascade leading to architectural, growth and metabolic changes that prolong underwater survival. My research program uses a combination of physiology, biochemistry and modern molecular techniques to (I) investigate genes and molecular processes underlying plant response to flooding and (II) identify genes and molecular processes whose regulation mediates the observed natural genetic diversity in flooding resistance. Ultimately the understanding of these processes will be critical to improve the resistance of current crops to flooding events that are predicted to dramatically increase with global climate change.
2018- Associate professor, Utrecht University
2010-2018 Assistant professor, Utrecht University
2009-2010 Postdoc, Utrecht University
PhD 2009 University of Calgary, Canada
MSc 2003 Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India
BSc 2001 Delhi University, India
COLLABORATORS: I collaborate intensively with the PIs at Plant Ecophysiology (Rens Voesenek, Ronald Pierik and Kaisa Kajala) as well as other scientists at the IEB at Utrecht University. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic scientists from all over the world.
Julia Bailey-Serres (UC Riverside), Ole Pedersen (Copenhagen University,Denmark), Angelika Mustroph (Bayreuth University, Germany), Margret Sauter (Kiel University, Germany), Mike Holdsworth (Uni. Nottingham, UK), Freddie Theodoulou (Rothamsted Research, UK), Dan Gibbs (Uni Birmingham, UK), Melis Akman (UC Berkley, US), Ashwani Pareek (JNU, India), Sneh Pareek (ICGEB, India)
FUNDING: My research is primarily funded by grants from NWO