Personal profile

Research interests

Plant differentiation and development

We have spent many years researching development and differentiation - how molecules and cells become organised, especially during root development in Arabidopsis seedlings, including the subcellular networks that drive tip growth in root hair cells.

Plant-soil interactions

We are applying our knowledge of plant root molecular genetics, cell biology and biochemistry to discover how plant roots prevent soil erosion. We are currently investigating this in Arabidopsis and wheat.

Engineering Biology

Since 2008 I have had a parallel career in synthetic biology and bioengineering, where my research aims to make microbial engineering more reliable and predictable and to discover how machine learning can help with that. I was a founding Director of both the Bristol Biodesign Institute and the EPSRC and BBSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Synthetic Boilogy (SynBio CDT).

Lay summary of research interests

We know that life is the product of complicated physical and chemical interactions between molecules, but how do these produce growth and activity? We are working to answer these questions using plants and microbes because it is easier, technically and ethically, to do powerful, informative experiments with these organisms than with animals. More recently we have received funding from the Leverhulme Trust and UKRI to investigate how plant roots prevent soil erosion. This is important because studies estimate that as much as half the soil on Earth is already eroded and almost all our food comes ultimately from soils. We also have funding from UKRI to investigate how AI can help us to better predict how changing the DNA in cells affects their activity. Our results are potentially relevant to a wide range of applications from agriculture to human health. We are currently exploring potential agricultural applications.

  • For more on our older root hair research please visit our wiki

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • Cabot Institute Food Security Research
  • Cabot Institute Environmental Change Research
  • Cabot Institute Natural Hazards and Disasters Research
  • Cabot Institute Water Research


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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