Heng-An Lin is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Texas A&M University. Lin’s research focuses on plant-microbiome interactions in response to biotic and abiotic stresses. We recently talked with Heng-An about her research. (Answers have been lightly edited.)
How did you get interested in microbiome research?
During my undergraduate and master’s research experience, I primarily focused on studying single plant pathogens in rice and trees. However, during my PhD, my focus shifted to a prevalent foliar disease of soybean, Septoria brown spot. This fungal pathogen has long latent periods and might lead to yield loss. Regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms, farmers would routinely apply fungicide at plant reproductive stages. This prompted us to investigate the effects of fungicide on both target and non-target organisms and their potential interactions (i.e., phyllosphere microbiome). Upon completion of my PhD, my interest in microbiome research grew, which led me to join the current team. My current research aim is to study the rhizosphere microbiome and delve deeper into the interactions between plant root exudates and plant microbiomes in response to drought stress.
Briefly describe your project as if you were talking to your grandmother. What excites you about your current research project?
Plants release numerous primary and secondary metabolites from their roots into the surrounding soil. Some metabolites might act as signals to attract beneficial microbes that assist in stress resilience. The goal of our project is to identify the key metabolites and associated microbes in response to drought stress.
What excites you about your current research project?
I am excited to learn about new technologies for data analysis and collaborate with multidisciplinary scientists and students, as it sparks innovative approaches for conducting experiments.
How does your work contribute to researchers’ understanding of the microbiome?
Harnessing the microbiome has increasingly become a concept for sustainable solutions in response to climate change. It poses a challenge to introduce a mixture of organisms into the soil as beneficial biostimulants. However, by identifying key metabolites that enhance microbiome dynamics, we can either apply these synthesized chemicals directly to the field or incorporate information into breeding programs, enabling plants to release targeted metabolites. Our research contributes to identifying the metabolites that trigger the microbiome shift under drought.
What song do you currently have on repeat?
Raincoat by Kieron Lee (feat. Chloe Ho).
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