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Stronger plants against stress

Researcher Julien Lang joined the Institute of Plant Sciences, Paris-Saclay (1) in Gif-sur-Yvette in 2015. He studies ways to improve plant resistance to stress and attacks.

Julien Lang, researcher at the Paris-Saclay Institute of Plant Sciences (CNRS – INRA – Université d’Evry – Université Paris Diderot – Université Paris Sud) in Gif-sur-Yvette. © INRA
By Emmanuelle Manck, translated by Emma Morton Saliou
Updated on 01/04/2019
Published on 03/09/2016

Julien Lang takes a particular interest in plant-bacteria interaction and the processes used by living organisms to adapt to environmental constraints. He is currently studying MAPK plant proteins (Mitogen Activated Protein Kinase). MAPKs play an important role in transmitting and incorporating stress signals from various sources: germs or insects, drought or soil salinity. 

Finding the enzymes essential to plant resistance

Understanding natural mechanisms to make them more efficient

“Our team works with various models. For biotic stresses, we use bacteria such as Pseudomonas syringae and Agrobacterium tumefaciens or the Botrytis cinerea fungus”, explains Julien. “To analyse plant response, we mainly work with Arabidopsis thaliana, a model species for which numerous tools exist for molecular and genetic studies. We also generate constitutively active MAPKs, capable of activating a stress signal in the absence of stress, in order to better study the genetic networks involving MAPKs. In addition to this fundamental research, we try to ascertain whether these active MAPKs can be used to improve resistance in economically important plant  lines”.

A non-traditional career path through different sciences

This young scientist completed studies in plant biology after a degree in physics and chemistry and another in...literature. For Dr Lang, this eclectic background is a testament to his “freedom of spirit” and “curiosity”. “You could also say it was accidental, like the car accident that caused my disability”, he adds.  The laryngeal trauma he suffered still makes it difficult for the scientist to communicate orally. “My career path has also been made by lucky encounters, like the chemistry internship I did in New York, during which a post-doc skilfully introduced me to plant molecular biology”.  

Julien Lang took on his current position at INRA following a Handicap recruitment campaign in 2015. Though his status as an employee with a disability does not involve any specific technical arrangements, it has relieved his concern over finding himself in embarrassing situations and allows him to focus on his research. “I was able to explain the nature of my difficulties clearly and my colleagues completely understood”.

(1) Team analysing MAP Kinase signals in response to biotic and abiotic stresses, Institute of Plant Sciences, Paris-Saclay (CNRS – INRA – Université d’Evry – Université Paris Diderot – Université Paris Sud)

CV at a glance

  • 39 years old, 2 children
  • PhD in plant sciences from the Université Paris-Sud XI in 2013
  • Masters (DEA) in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Strasbourg in 2005
  • Masters in physics and chemistry from the Faculty of science and technology in Mulhouse in 2004
  • Masters in literature from the University of Mulhouse in 2001