STEPS Scholar Dr. Imani Madison was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Plant Genome Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology. This project focuses on how intercellular communication is established through channels in plant cell walls, called plasmodesmata, and identifying how we can modulate intercellular communication either through use of compounds or genetic engineering. The sponsoring scientist is Dr. Ross Sozzani, Professor of Plant and Microbial Biology and STEPS Co-Deputy Director.
During Dr. Madison’s STEPS experience, she has been heavily involved in designing a project that integrates Theme 1 & 2 research, in which she will screen bioprinted plant cells with biomaterials to test whether the biomaterials improve plant phosphate uptake responses. Her time as a STEPS scholar has prepared her for this fellowship by teaching her about different approaches to addressing STEPS goals and the efficacy of collaborative, multidisciplinary research.
Dr. Madison was inspired to focus on this topic because of her interest in plasmodesmata and her desire to learn how they develop and function. She hopes her research provides insights into how plant cell communication can be harnessed to improve plant growth and stress responses.
Through this fellowship, valued at $249,000 over three years, Madison will build her skills in additional experimental techniques and gain more professional development opportunities. After this NSF fellowship experience, she hopes to start a research lab or company, depending on how her research, fellowship, and interests evolve.
Madison earned her Ph.D. in Plant Biology from NC State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She won the 2022 Kenneth R. Keller Award for excellence in research for her dissertation. To learn more about her postdoctoral fellowship, visit the NSF’s website.
Cover photo credit: Becky Kirkland, NC State