Dynamic duo join CABNR's biochemistry faculty

Dylan Kosma and Patricia Santos are a tag team of plant biologists who are calling the University of Nevada, Reno their new home. The couple was recently hired, after spending some time at Michigan State University. Though they are new to UNR, they are already loving their time at the University.

Dylan Kosma, University of Nevada, Reno“Our experience so far has been fantastic,” Kosma said. “Everyone is incredibly helpful and welcoming. Even before we arrived, the people in the department were reaching out to us and inviting us to opportunities to collaborate. There is a nice collegiate atmosphere.”

Kosma, an assistant professor, is currently researching stress tolerance in plants. This topic focuses on plants waxy skin’s ability to tolerate environmental stress, such as extreme heat or drought. Kosma is very interested in the plant’s cuticle, the waxy layer that protects the outside of the plant, and suberin, a polymer located inside the plant, and how the two substances assemble together in order to protect the plant from environmental stress.

Patrica Santos, University of Nevada, Reno

Santos, an assistant research professor, has an emphasis in plant pathology, and an overall interest in micro-interactions in plants. Her interests are largely focused on plant diseases and plant synthesis. Santos also has a US Patent on enhancing plant drought tolerance.

“When it comes to studying plant diseases, the long term goal is to provide relevant information to farmers,” Santos said. “Hopefully they can apply what we are studying here [at UNR], either to prevent diseases from spreading or even to inhibit them from appearing.”

Both Kosma and Santos emphasized the tremendous impact that plant diseases can have on agricultural productivity and the importance of understanding how plants are able to resist those diseases. Kosma and Santos hope to collaborate and use both of their unique talents in discovering interesting and new abiotic stress controls in plants.

Furthermore, Santos is interested in how certain plants are able to use symbiosis, an interaction between two organisms that allows for a mutual advantage to occur between the two. An example Santos gave was the symbiotic nitrogen fixation that occurs between legumes and bacteria. Both could survive independently; however living together benefits both organisms.

Outside of the science field, Kosma and Santos have a wide variety of interests and passions. Both speak multiple languages and believe that being multilingual has helped to enhance their careers over the years. Kosma speaks English, Spanish and a bit of French, while Santos speaks English, Portuguese, and French with a bit of Spanish tossed into the mix.

“I’ve been able to make a lot of international connections that would not have been possible without my language skills,” Kosma said. “I have some very nice collaborations with people in Spain, France, and Portugal.”

Santos, originally from Portugal, said that being multilingual has allowed her to help others and interact with many different people. She also hopes to encourage Portuguese students to come study in Nevada, while opening doors for UNR students to study abroad.

Both Kosma and Santos have had a great time getting to know Reno. They both enjoy the climate and all of the beautiful natural landscapes that Northern Nevada has to offer. They said their best experience so far at UNR has been getting to set up their lab and getting to know the great scientists in their department.

“We have met great people here,” Santos said. “That’s just really made a strong impression.”