Faculty voice:

Anne Rea: A license to love plants

Aug. 8, 2018

Anne Rea is post-doctoral research associate in the Plant Research Laboratory.

I moved from New York state to Michigan for a job at MSU, and I knew that it was cheaper to be a Michigan resident: my license plate, license, registration, and most importantly for me, car insurance, would all be much cheaper in Michigan than in New York. Therefore, in order to save close to 35 percent on my car insurance, I decided to officially become a Michigan resident.

Upon visiting the Secretary of State website, I saw that there were three different license plate designs from which I could choose. I personally do not like the standard white and blue, and it was only $5 to get a special design plate. Although I like Mackinac Island and I thought the bridge was really pretty, I have only been there once, so I thought it more fitting to choose the "Spectacular Peninsulas" plate, which highlights many facets of Michigan. I liked this because it's almost like not having to make a choice, while still being aesthetically pleasing! Then I figured that I might as well get a vanity plate, too, and why not celebrate the fact that I am in a new place, and one that costs a lot less, no less!

It also seems to me that Michigan residents have a lot more vanity plates, in general, and more variety in their license plate styles, than do New York residents. Since being in Michigan, I have enjoyed finding various plates and privately attempting to figure out their meaning. I probably like this because I have always enjoyed games, and it reminds me a bit of my childhood.

My dad invented a game when my family and I would travel by car, whereby we would look at the license plates of cars passing by, and if we could find our initials in the alphanumeric combination, we would get points; more points were awarded if two consecutive initials were located consecutively in the plate (amongst other rules).

We also would be intrigued by people's vanity plates, and we would point them out or try to figure out the more elusive ones. Because I especially like word games, creating a vanity plate with only a 7-character limit could be a fun challenge for me. I wanted to choose something that would be obvious to people (as I did not like the plates that I could not figure out!), but would still convey what I wanted.

I have always appreciated the beauty of plants, and when I was a senior in high school and I took Advanced Biology, I learned that I liked the beauty of plants on a structural level as well. When I was a junior at The Ohio State University, I discovered that plants were seemingly even more beautiful on an even smaller scale. I needed to select a PI with whom to work for my senior honors thesis, and I had an idea that I wanted to work with plants, but I was not sure in what aspect.

During my perusal of the Plant Biology Department page of the OSU website, I came across beautiful images of the Arabidopsis thaliana leaf epidermis, showing how stomata and pavement cells of this tissue were arranged with respect to each other, on the website of Dr. Fred Sack. I saw how the stomata were clustered and aberrantly arranged in the too many mouths mutant as compared to the wild type, and I was immediately hooked.

I joined Dr. Sack's lab after meeting with him, and I also took a graduate-level plant cell biology course with Dr. Sack during my junior year. It was, by far, my favorite and most useful course that I have ever taken; I probably learned most of what I know about plant cell biology from this one course, and it really provided me with an excellent framework with which to hone my instinct in this field.

After taking this course, my love for plant cells truly solidified, in terms of both how these cells work together to create the larger anatomy of the plant, and how their intracellular organelles and proteins are structurally and functionally coordinated.

license plate that says PLNTCELOwing in large part to the cell wall, and the fact that plants are multicellular, plant cells can assume many varied shapes and sizes, leading to gorgeous views as visualized via microscopy. I have used confocal microscopy as an undergraduate student, as a graduate student and now as a postdoctoral research associate. This allows me to study plants on both a molecular and cellular level, and I get to see how different proteins and organelles are arranged and how they behave on a cellular level, and how the cells appear with respect to one another.

The beauty of plant cells as visualized through the microscope truly inspires my work. I also have a small collection of house plants at home, mostly of succulents, which I find particularly beautiful, and those that I find interesting and aesthetically pleasing in some way.

I consider myself a plant cell biologist, and due to my love for plant cells, it was only fitting that I use "PLNTCEL" for my vanity license plate. It was the first combination of letters that came to mind, and I was lucky that no one else had chosen that particular letter combination and sequence.