As the Fall 2020 semester draws to a close, we thought it prudent to give you all an update on how we are faring! While the shift to remote work and remote learning has been difficult for us all, the Sparks lab has shown amazing resilience and flexibility through these transitions. We are continually amazed by and grateful for the wonderful group of scientists that are in the lab. 💚
Where to begin... Since the last update, we have had two more publications accepted!!! 🥳.
The first came out in Plant Direct this November: "Maize Brace Roots Provide Stalk Anchorage", and directly established the link between brace roots and their ability to stabilize maize stalks. This paper was featured as the Article of the Week in Plant Direct, and is the outcome of a great collaboration with Drs. Brian Dilkes & Raj Khangura at Purdue University.
A second manuscript was just accepted at Current Opinion in Plant Biology: "Bracing for sustainable agriculture: the development and function of brace roots in members of the Poaceae". The accepted version of the manuscript is available through arXiv prior to publication. This review was spearheaded by Sparks Lab postdoc Ashley Henderson, again in collaboration with Brian and Raj. Needless to say, this has been a very fruitful collaboration between our labs with more publications to follow!
We are hoping to continue this positive publication trend with a few more papers targeted for submission in late 2020 and early 2021!!
It's also that time of year for impending departures and the welcoming of new faces...
The first Sparks Lab postdoc, Adam Stager, left the lab in September to focus on his start-up endeavors full time. We are so grateful that Adam spent a year with us, and we have so many new tools as an outcome of his time in lab. We wish him the best of luck with his entrepreneurial endeavors!!!
This Fall is the graduation of our first thesis-based MS student, Sarah Blizard. Sarah will be departing the lab at the end of the year, and we are sad to see her go. Sarah has been an integral part of the Sparks lab foundation and we are so proud of all she has accomplished!
In addition, PhD candidate Lindsay Erndwein just received permission to graduate, so she will be frantically writing over the next several months with a targeted graduation of Spring 2021!
As our students are graduating and moving on to new opportunities, we are also happy to welcome new people into the lab. Tecle Weldekidan joins the Sparks lab as a research scientist starting December 2020! Tecle has been working at the University of Delaware for over 30-years and was integral to launching the Sparks lab field research program through research collaboration. Tecle brings a wealth of experience in corn breeding to our lab and we are delighted for him to join us.
As we wrap up 2020 - which has been a tumultuous year filled with ups and downs - we reflect on the joy that our colleagues and collaborators bring to us. The wonderful community of plant biologists and engineers that we have the opportunity to work with is truly our reason to smile. We wish you all the best as we start the holiday season. Stay safe and stay well. 💚🌽💚