I studied Physics Engineering at Politecnico di Milano (Milano, Italy), where I earned a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree. Both of them consisted mainly of solid state physics classes, with a particular focus on semiconductors (for electronics and photonics application) and magnetic nanostructures. My first experience in research was at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (Grenoble, France), where I spent 10 months working as a trainee for my master thesis project.
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This project will investigate how metal hyperaccumulation limits plant disease using the interaction of the metal hyperaccumulating plant Noccaea caerulescens with the bacterial pathogen Pseudomonas syringae as a model system. N. caerulescens can accumulate zinc, nickel and cadmium to many times higher than normal physiological concentrations, and is widely studied as a model metal hyperaccumulating plant.
All accessions of N. caerulescens we have studied to date acquire increased protection against P. syringae through metal accumulation, and the degree of protection correlates with the abundance of metal in plant tissues. However, the distribution of metals inside its leaves is not uniform. Therefore metal toxicity will depend on the local concentration of metal at the specific site of pathogen colonization and on host responses to infection that alter metal localisation or speciation. Hence, merely measuring the total amount of foliar metal is unlikely to be indicative of the concentration, speciation and metal complexes to which pathogens are exposed.
An important step forward would be imaging of the cellular and subcellular concentration, localization and chemical speciation of metal within healthy and infected plants, in relation to pathogen location, activity, viability, and other plant defence mechanisms, including the production of defensive metabolites and localized programmed cell death. In this project we will use synchrotron-based imaging techniques including micro-X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and micro X-ray absorption near-edge structure (µ-XANES) to examine the distribution and chemical speciation of elements, including zinc, cadmium and nickel, in healthy and infected N. caerulescens leaves. We also aim to further develop approaches to study elemental distributions in 3D using cryo-XRF-tomography and to apply them to this biological system. We will combine insights from these analyses with super-resolution correlative cryo-fluorescence microscopy and electron microscopy, Raman microspectroscopy, analyses of pathogen gene expression and viability, and of plant defence responses, to investigate how metal hyperaccumulation limits pathogen growth. Raman micro-spectroscopy is able to detect bacterial metabolic activity at the single cell level in-situ. We will use analytical techniques such as GC-MS or MALDI imaging mass spectrometry to observe the changes that occur in the abundance and distribution of metabolites in healthy and infected plants.
The student appointed to this project will have the opportunity to work within three world-leading research organisations and to develop expertise in a range of advanced imaging techniques, as well as addressing important research questions about plant biology and plant-microbe interactions.
Fones, H., Davis, C.A.R., Rico, A., Fang, F., Smith, J.A.C. and Preston, G.M. (2010) Metal hyperaccumulation armors plants against disease. PLoS Pathogens 6, e1001093
Fones H.N., Preston G.M. (2013). Trade-offs between metal hyperaccumulation and induced disease resistance in metal hyperaccumulator plants. Plant Pathology 62, 63-71.
Fones H., Eyles C.J., Bennett M.H., Smith J.A.C., Preston G.M. (2013) Uncoupling of ROS accumulation and defence signalling in the metal hyperaccumulator plant Noccaea caerulescens. New Phytologist 199, 916-24 Moore, K. L., Chen, Y., van de Meene, A. M. L., Hughes, L., Liu, W., Geraki, T., Mosselmans, F., McGrath, S. P., Grovenor, C. and Zhao, F.-J. (2014). Combined NanoSIMS and synchrotron X-ray fluorescence reveal distinct cellular and subcellular distribution patterns of trace elements in rice tissues. New Phytologist, 201, 104–115. Wang, Y., Huang, W.E., Li, C. and Wagner, M. (2016) Single cell stable isotope probing in microbiology using Raman microspectroscopy. Current opinion in Biotechnology 41:34-42.
This project is supported through the BBSRC-funded Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) programme in association with Diamond Light Source. The student recruited to this project will join a cohort of students enrolled in the DTP’s interdisciplinary training programme, and will be able to take full advantage of the training and networking opportunities available through the DTP. They will also spend a substantial part of the studentship working at Diamond on the Harwell campus. STFC Central Laser Facility is also in close vicinity to Diamond. For further details please visit www.biodtp.ox.ac.uk and www.diamond.ac.uk. Prospective applicants should contact the project supervisor Prof. Gail Preston (email@example.com) prior to submitting an application. Applications for this project will be made via the Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP. For further details please visit www.biodtp.ox.ac.uk.
Attributes of suitable applicants:
Applicants would be expected to possess at least an upper-second class degree (or equivalent) and relevant experience in bioengineering, biophysics, chemistry or biochemistry. Applicants with excellent degrees and relevant experience in other physics, engineering and biology disciplines will also be considered.
Applicants with prior experience in imaging instrumentation, image analysis, or programming in Matlab or/and LabVIEW and/or Python, are encouraged to apply. However, experience in these areas is not essential as training will be provided.
This project is jointly funded for four years by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council BBSRC and Diamond Light Source. BBSRC eligibility criteria apply
(http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/studentship-eligibility-pdf/). The successful student will receive a stipend of £16,772 in year 1, increasing each year in line with increases in RCUK stipends.
Applications to this studentship will open in early 2018.
Diamond Light Source Ltd. holds an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, demonstrating their commitment to provide equal opportunities and to advance the representation of women in STEM/M subjects: science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
Diamond Light Source is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, located at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
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