Postdoctoral fellow spotlight: Q&A with Ranjita Sinha

Ranjita Sinha works in the lab of Ron Mittler, Curators' Distinguished Professor of Plant Science and Technology.

What is your research focus? 

My research is focused on understanding the physiological and molecular responses of plants to different combinations of abiotic stresses. While growing in field, crops are frequently challenged with various stresses, simultaneously or sequentially, negatively impacting overall yield and farmer’s earnings. I have been studying the impact of stresses that are predominantly present in fields, such as salt, heat, soil pollutants, high-light, drought, and their different combinations on crops such as rice, maize, soybean, and model plants like Arabidopsis thaliana. I am working to decipher the molecular responses of plants to stress combinations. Combinations of different abiotic stresses can magnify the negative effects of stresses especially when they occur during the reproductive growth phase of the plant. My research focus is therefore primarily focused physiological and molecular responses of reproductive tissue of plants to stress combinations and how these are different from vegetative tissues such as leaves. While studying the response of soybean’s reproductive and vegetative tissues to a combination of drought and heat stress, I discovered that under a combination of drought and heat stress soybean reproductive tissues (sepals) have a differential transpiration response compared to vegetative tissues. I found that the physiological response of reproductive tissues is to protect flowers from overheating by opening the stomata and increasing the rate of transpiration, while the physiological response of leaves is to reduce water loss by closing the stomata.

Why does this field interest you? 

My interest is to modify or select crops for better yield under combination of different stresses. Understanding plants is interesting to me because they show incredible and quick adaptability to their environment, and they have unique responses to each condition. Additionally, working with plants provides freedom to repeat the experiments with large number of replicates, and the experiments can be conducted under natural environment like field and controlled environment like chambers. The availability of hundreds of genetic variants to dissect plant genetic responses are other benefits that makes the plant-abiotic interaction field interesting for me.

Why did you decide to come to Mizzou? 

I decided to come to Mizzou because my research interest was compatible with the research interest and vision of Dr. Ron Mittler and in addition, Mizzou has amazing research facilities to support my research interest.

What are your future career plans? 

My future career plan is to find an academic research position where I can continue working on my research interests, implement my ideas and transfer the knowledge by teaching or other communication methods.