Fascinated by plants - Associate Professor Roosa Laitinen is the latest addition to the Thriving Nature crew

Associate Professor in Genomics-based Plant Science Roosa Laitinen started on 1 April 2021 within Thriving Nature program at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, at the organismal and Evolutionary Biology research programme (OEB). Laitinen is particularly intrigued to understand the mechanisms that allow plants to adapt to changing environments and how these adaptive responses impact plant evolution.

Roosa Laitinen combines methods genetics and genomics to state-of art molecular methods available for model system A. thaliana.

– I have been fascinated by plants from an early age, and during my research career, I have worked in different scientific fields to broaden my knowledge and gain experience with diverse model systems and research environments, Roosa Laitinen says.

After her PhD studies at the University of Helsinki, studying flower development in Gerbera hybrida, Laitinen moved to southern Germany and started her post doctoral training in the laboratory of Detlef Weigel who was the one who first introduced her to the natural variation in Arabidopsis thaliana and how it can be used to understand genomic effects of adaptive responses in plants.

– My two key scientific questions include, firstly, the investigation of the outcome of interactions between different genomes and secondly, the identification of genetic factors that contribute to plant plasticity. Addressing these questions necessitates a combination of approaches across different scales, from single genotypes to populations, from the molecular to complex end-phenotypes, and from the greenhouse to the natural habitat and the field, says Laitinen.

Understanding the mechanisms of plant adaptation and evolution is important according to Laitinen because it allows to predict the possible impact of climate change on plants This is exceedingly important and valuable in decision-making in order to understand long-term impacts of our actions and to develop more resilient crops for future environments.

To Laitinen it is exciting that the recent technological developments have allowed production of high-throughput data and the future challenge is what we will do with this data and how we can use them to pose and answer elegant questions.

– I believe that the genomic context of natural variation is one of the most intriguing areas of plant research in the current post-genomic era and allows us to identify new genetic and genomic interactions that underlie phenotypic variation in plants, says Laitinen.

– I expect the Thriving Nature program will provide an excellent scientific platform to establish interdisciplinary collaborations to do research that will allow us to understand the impact of changing environmental on nature. In addition to research, I also expect, as part of the Thriving Nature program to provide courses that strengthen students in interdisciplinary thinking, Laitinen says.

Laitinen is also having a small group working at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam, Germany until end of May 2022.