8 December 2020 – During his PhD at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and a postdoc at the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology in Vienna, Austria, Lee used genomic tools to investigate how different plants have evolved, and he quickly realized that the same tools could be applied to agronomy.
Lee went back to his home country as Associate Professor at National Taiwan University to study how humans have turned wild plants into the tasty, fleshy varieties that we eat today. Scientists know that during the plant domestication process, a lot of genetic variation was lost, so Lee’s team is now looking at wild progenitors of modern bean species that are a food staple in Asia. The researchers aim to identify genes that control important traits such as drought or disease tolerance. By identifying those genes, Lee hopes to help plant breeders to develop better varieties that could be released to poor farmers in Asia.
As a member of the EMBO Global Investigator Network, Lee hopes to strengthen his connections with the global research community and establish new collaborations. “Many EMBO scientists work on humans, so I’m also trying to let them know that what we’re doing in plants is important,” he says.