Mariah Cox | Bond LSC

Amith Reddy has been in academia for some time and doesn’t plan to leave anytime soon.

With two master’s degrees under his belt, Reddy is only a few months away from completing his Ph.D. in plant sciences.

Reddy began his secondary education career in India where he spent most of his life before moving to New Mexico for his second master’s. He cites the hands-on application of science that he first began to experience at the Directorate of Sorghum Research in India as the turning point of his interest in plant sciences.

“I think the first research experience I had that was hands-on was with handling DNA, and I was fascinated by that,” Reddy said. “During my undergraduate years, we just read about science but beginning with my master’s degree and on we handled science.”

Reddy started his doctorate program at the University of North Texas but transferred to the University of Missouri when his mentor, Ron Mittler, moved his lab to Bond Life Sciences Center just ten months shy of completing his degree. While some may be thrown off by a big move just months before graduating, Reddy embraced the change positively.

“I wanted to continue my work with Ron because he is an excellent mentor,” Reddy said.

Reddy firmly believes that having a passion for research and a good mentor will bring success to academic research.

“I think we all need to have a compatible mentor that pushes us to be focused and driven,” Reddy said. “Ron is very science focused, passionate and motivated. I hope to one day emulate those characteristics in my career as well.”

For his Ph.D. dissertation, Reddy researches the stomatal response in plants after being exposed to light stress. More simply, he wants to study how the leaves of plants communicate with each other and react to stress in order to survive.

When a plant experiences a high temperature, it loses water more quickly. Reddy has found that reactive oxygen species in plants can signal the stomata to close to help retain water. Before, researchers believed the stomatal responses in plants took up to one hour, but Reddy has found that the response can react in as little as one minute.

“The uniqueness of this study is that it focuses on light stress. In the past, people have studied bacteria, heat and cold stress, but there are still many missing aspects related to light stress,” Reddy said.

After completing his degree, Reddy hopes to use his research to find a way to alter the stomatal responses in plants so that the plants can balance water loss and carbon fixation.

“The long-term goal of this project is to build up stress-tolerant plants that enables better yield and better capabilities to withstand stress conditions in the field,” Reddy said.

Following graduation, Reddy hopes to conduct research and teach at an academic institution. Although he doesn’t know whether he will start a postdoctoral degree or begin teaching first, one thing is for sure — he will continue to research and identify what’s still unknown to widen the biochemical and genetic standpoint of knowledge of stomata responses in plants.