I am currently a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow based at the Centre for Plant Integrative Biology at the University of Nottingham, with joint affiliation to the School of Biosciences and the School of Mathematical Sciences.
My research group develops multiscale models to understand plant growth and development.
Hormone transport The dynamic spatial distributions of plant hormones play essential roles in controlling plant growth and development. These distributions depend, often unintuitively, on the spatial arrangement of proteins (e.g. PIN, AUX1/LAX and ABCBs) on the cell membranes as well as the dynamics of biosynthesis and degradation network within individual cells. We are developing models to understand how these cellular and subcellular scale processes control dynamic hormone distributions at the organ scale. In the root tip, for example, auxin dynamics affects growth rates, growth direction and lateral root initiation, and therefore our auxin-transport models characterise these key aspects of root architecture.
Gibberellin-regulated growth A further focus is to develop models to understand growth regulation at multiple spatial scales. The distribution of the hormone gibberellin depends on the complex interplay between the dynamics of the biosynthesis and degradation pathway and cell growth and division. By developing multiscale models, we are investigating gibberellin’s growth regulation within control, mutant and drought-/cold-stressed plants.
Root Systems Architecture The architecture of the root system plays a major role in determining how much water and nutrients the plant obtains from the soil. To understand the many factors that impact nutrient and water uptake, we are developing root-system models using the SimRoot framework, working with Prof Jonathan Lynch, Penn State. In particular, we are creating a model of the rice root system to investigate which architectural traits improve water uptake in drought conditions, in collaboration with experimentalists in Thailand and the Philippines.
Our multiscale models include hormone transport, gene regulation, biomechanics and water fluxes, and we employ a range of mathematical and computational techniques to investigate these processes. Vertex-based simulations enable us to predict dynamic hormone distributions within real multicellular geometries. Furthermore, in using our models to interpret biological data, we employ parameter-estimation techniques, for example, to relate fluorescent reporter data to hormone levels. Our findings are typically underpinned by using asymptotic analysis to gain understanding of the underlying dynamics, and derive simplified models that retain the essential biology.
I am on the Cell Section Committee of the Society for Experimental Biology, and I co-organise CPIB’s bi-annual Mathematics in the Plant Sciences study group. I am also passionate about outreach: I recently developed a workshop to introduce GCSE students to mathematical modelling of plant growth. Please contact me if you would like any further information about any of these activities.
I am keen to recruit PhD students who would like to pursue Mathematics research at the forefront of Biological Sciences. For information, please see the School of Mathematical Sciences website (http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/mathematics/prospective/research/index.aspx), and contact me if you would like further details.