I am a plant scientist interested in how molecular signaling processes in the plant immune system work, and how they govern plant interactions with pathogens and pests. I performed my PhD in the Plant-Microbe Interactions group in Utrecht, studying the phytohormones jasmonic acid, ethylene and salicylic acid, that are involved in plant defense. I investigated genes involved in the interaction between the three hormonal pathways. As the different hormones are involved in defense against different (types of) pathogens or insects, their interaction affects the outcome of defense. I also discovered novel enzymes in jasmonic acid metabolism, that turned out to inactivate jasmonic acid. Interruption of this inactivation resulted in very resistant plants, that were retarded in their growth, as hyperactivation of defense is often known to lead to reduction of growth.
In my current research at Wageningen UR, I study how plants can detect and defend to butterfly eggs. Butterfly eggs form a first warning to plants that attack by hungry caterpillars will follow. By killing or removing the eggs, the danger can be averted before damage is done. In my research, I am particularly interested in how plants recognize attack by eggs, and how plants distinguish between different eggs to tailor their defense. To understand plant defense to eggs, I am using several Brassicaceous species and eggs of several butterflies and moths. A major aim in this project is to identify the molecule in butterfly eggs that is detected by plants. In this project, I am using molecular techniques to study the response of plants, perform chemical analysis of plant and insect metabolites and use ecological experiments to study the effect of plant defense on insect eggs.
This research is part of an NWO-VIDI funded project. More information on this project can be found on this website. We have possibilities for both BSc and MSc students to work on this project. Please contact me for more information.