Justin Watkins, PhD




Justin Watkins of the Muday lab and long time microscopy core user successfully defended his dissertation on 8/3!

Justin received his B.S. in Biological Sciences & Plant Biology from N.C. State before joining the Wake Forest Biology department as a graduate student.  Justin’s next stop will be Utah to do postdoctoral research in the fall.  Until then, he is waiting patiently for his promotion to father! Justin and his wife are expecting their first child in September.  If you see him, wish him luck with all his exciting changes!

Epifluorescent image of Arabidopsis leaf at 100x. The leaf was stained with DPBA, a probe that fluoresces yellow when it binds to kaempferol and quercetin (2 flavonols found in arabidopsis). Yellow fluorescence is primarily localized to guard cells trichomes.
Red is chlorophyll autofluorescence.

Justin’s summary of his research:

“My research examines the interplay between ethylene and redox signaling in modulating stomatal movement and root architecture. Much of my thesis research has focused on understanding the interactions between ABA-induced ROS with ethylene-induced flavonol antioxidant compounds in modulating guard cell signaling in Arabidopsis and tomato. Utilizing confocal and brightfield microscopy, we found a novel role for flavonol antioxidants in reducing ROS levels and stomatal closure in guard cells. Additionally, we found that ethylene induces these antioxidants in guard cells, dampening ABA-dependent stomatal closure. To study the ethylene signaling pathway in more detail, I transitioned my research to the root system in Arabidopsis. Using gain-of-function and loss-of-function ethylene receptor mutants, I quantified the function of ethylene receptor isoforms in modulating gene expression changes and root architecture in response to ethylene signaling.”