3 May 2023 – Jyothilakshmi Vadassery, the first plant biologist from India in the EMBO Global Investigator Network so far, is intrigued by plant-insect interactions. At the National Institute of Plant Genome Research, New Delhi, Vadassery is trying to decode the molecular mechanisms deployed by plants to defend themselves against a variety of insect herbivores. This is important to India, which in recent years has been challenged by significant crop losses from attacks of insect pests and the inadvertent use of pesticides to control them.
Vadassery’s lab specifically works on early activated plant calcium channels involved in immunity. “We address the question of how plants defend against herbivory by insects. My lab applies a combination of reverse genetics, metabolomics, cellular imaging and transgenic approaches,” she says.
Her postdoctoral work at the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany, opened up the path to her research in chemical and molecular ecology. “Becoming an EMBO Global Investigator boosted my confidence to do even better work,” Vadassery says. The EMBO funding made travelling and networking easier for her and her students, so that they could better highlight their work internationally. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, childcare support funding and a bridging grant were also highly welcome,” she adds.