The Importance of Plant Immunity - Meet Anamika Rawat

Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology
Anamika Rawat

Anamika Rawat is a postdoctoral researcher in the biology department at Queen’s University. She specializes in plant biology, and more specifically, explores “genetic mechanisms regulating the plant immune signaling.” One may not automatically recognize the importance of plant immunity research, but Anamika explains that it’s critical for both the growth of the human population and its application to agriculture. Anamika explains it best by saying, “Healthy food makes a healthy human being, so it is very important to study the immune system in plants. Plant diseases caused by pathogens and pests are a constant threat to global food security.” She goes on to say, “We all eat plants or plant-based foods. Direct crop losses and the measures used to control diseases have significant agricultural, economic and societal impacts.” Thus, Anamika is contending that if we want to feed our growing population, we have to learn more about plant immunity to “create or devise plants that are more resistant to diseases and stresses.” To avoid “a large proportion of our food production getting lost because of plant diseases,” research such as Anamika’s is critical to sustain population growth and support the agriculture industry.

Anamika is particularly attuned to complete this research due to her outstanding academic record and previous research, which has taken her to different academic institutions around the world. She started her academic journey in India, where she completed her undergraduate and master’s degree. It was during her master’s she picked up the bug for doing research, and started seeking out international opportunities to complete her Ph.D. After receiving a scholarship to visit a University in Slovakia, she was impressed by the culture, history and nature of Europe and their approach to a work life balance.  During her visit, she fell in love with Europe and sought out more programs. She ultimately was selected to attend Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. She started as a Marie Curie Fellow and spent seven years doing her PhD there. After finishing her Ph.D., she knew she wanted to continue doing research “especially with plants,” so she did a postdoctoral fellowship in Saudi Arabia at The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Finally, she moved to Canada to do a second postdoctoral fellowship at Queen’s University.

Whereas in her master’s and doctoral degrees she was studying plant anatomy and plant molecular biology, during her postdoc in Saudi Arabia she made the shift to signal transduction in plants under stress. While she is now studying plant immunity, Anamika notes, “I was switching fields, but it was always about studying plants from different aspects. I can use my knowledge and experiences from my previous research fields and use them to explore plant immunity in depth– a system that allows plants to resist attacks from a wide variety of pathogens.” Anamika agrees that she has had quite a journey through academia, but she notes, “I enjoy doing research a lot, but I am also interested in teaching. So, I would like to apply for assistant professor tenure track positions.”

For now, Anamika is incredibly grateful for her supervisor, Dr. Jacqueline Monaghan, who has been extremely supportive. She is also settling into Kingston, where she is happy for the warmer weather and excited to explore the city more.