PROFILE: Román (Romi) Ramos Báez, plant biologist and geneticist
"Ultimately, I also love plants because I love people. Understanding our relationships with plants tells us so much about ourselves."
My name is Román (Romi) Ramos Báez (all pronouns), and I am a queer and trans, able-bodied Dominican immigrant. I am also an antiracist, anticapitalist, antiwar, antisexist, pro-worker, pro-immigrant, plant-based activist, artist, and scientist. I consider myself a plant geneticist and evolutionary biologist. I studied Plant Biology and Genetics at UC Berkeley and am currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington’s Biology department.
My current project focuses on using yeast to understand the cross-species differences in the functions of the receptors for auxin: a plant hormone involved in many plant growth and developmental processes.
I often come back to the concept of “emergence” where a group of things driven by a very simple rule results in their working together to create something bigger than the sum of their parts.
I mostly focus on the evolution of plants because their stillness and ubiquity make focusing on them inevitable. I will happily spend the rest of my career understanding the mechanisms that control the development of their organs: the neatly folded petals on a flower, the phyllotactic patterning on leaves, the branches of a tree forming fractals.
I turned to genetics and the evolution of proteins because I want to understand the rules that bind and drive this complexity that teeters elegantly between chaos and order and that can be studied at many levels: molecular, cellular, organismal, and ecological.
Ultimately, I also love plants because I love people. Understanding our relationships with plants tells us so much about ourselves. They are a huge part of our food, our medicine, our traditions, and our environment. Understanding emergence also helps me to remember the power in people working together. So often as scientists, it is easy to focus on the mechanisms that govern our world and to lose focus on the bigger picture. I am committed to always taking a step back and remembering that my purpose is to help others and make the world a better place.
When my involvement in science isn’t enough to show up in solidarity for people, I will always make sure to show up in the other ways I am being explicitly asked to by the Black community, immigrant communities, Indigenous communities, and the trans communities especially.
1. Plants have hormones! Hormones are small molecules that help cells communicate with one another. Although hormones in plants are very different from those in animals, plants do orchestrate their bodies with hormones.
2. Plants regulate their movement towards light, their branching, their stem cell niches, their response to gravity and more through a single hormone: auxin!
3. Little is known about how auxin enters a given cell code for a specific signal since all auxin receptors seem to have some redundancy in function and bind to the same auxin compound. I am helping to chip away at this knowledge gap!
Connect with Román