Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Plant Cell – all change at the top

The ASPB (American Society of Plant Biologists) has named Professor Sabeeha Merchant as the next Editor-in-Chief of The Plant Cell

Image: Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Wikimedia Commons.

Picking up from my previous post about plantpersons in the public eye, and moving from research to the equally important activity of disseminating the results of that work, we have news that the ASPB (American Society of Plant Biologists) has named Professor Sabeeha Merchant as the next Editor-in-Chief of The Plant Cell, the publication with the ‘highest impact factor of primary research journals in plant biology’. Merchant is a Professor of Biochemistry at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and a member of the USA’s National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Her group’s research focuses on trace metal metabolism using Chlamydomonas as a model species. Does that mean that under her leadership we can expect to see more articles in that august organ about plant-like cells…? Her 5-year term commences on 1st January 2015, so I guess we’ll know next year.

Merchant succeeds Professor Cathie Martin, Group Leader at the UK’s John Innes Centre, who is noteworthy in that role not just for being the first woman and the first non-American to hold this post, but also for founding Teaching Tools in Plant Biology as a feature of the journal. And Martin – who was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 2013 for services to plant biotechnology – will continue to be kept very busy when she leaves that post as her work on phytonutrients and anthocyanins, and ‘purple tomatoes’ in particular, takes off.

And congratulations to Cathie Martin, Eugenio Butelli and John Innes Centre for winning out on the 2014 BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) Innovator of the Year award, for their work on the enhancement of bioactives in crops for comparative nutritional assays and nutritional improvement. For more on the biology of anthocyanins I recommend the quick guide thereto by Beverley Glover and Cathie Martin. And for more on ‘unnatural tomatoes’, there is an article on this very blog that you can take a look at.


[And with mention of JIC, we ought to show some balance and not forget good old RES  (Rothamsted Experimental Station) – ‘the longest running agricultural institute in the world – whose new Director,Professor Achim Dobermann, takes over on 1st June 2014. Interestingly, Dobermann was formerly Deputy Director General for Research at IRRI (International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines). Hmmm, think rice, think flooded paddy fields, think recent dramatic downpours covering large areas of the UK. Rice – is that now to be the golden future of UK agriculture…? So, strategic re-alignment in bucketloads at RES… And for more on how plants cope with flooding, why not look at Sarah Shailes’ blog post thereonSarah is a PhD student at JIC studying cell signalling in the legume-nodulation event, and is an example of the emerging new talent in plant science, the subject of a future news item… – Ed.]

Nigel Chaffey

I am a botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ - and to Botany One - for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. Happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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