TMAF is currently supporting several PhD students. Ian Tsang reports on what he is doing and why and what drew him to be interested in the root hairs of wheat.
My name is Ian Tsang and I’m one of the TMAF-supported PhD student based at NIAB, Cambridge. I was born in Hong Kong but have been living in the UK since 2016.
My background is in Biological Sciences. I obtained my MSci at the University of Bristol. During my undergraduate degree, I became extremely interested in plant sciences and decided that I wanted to purse a PhD in plant/crop sciences.
This PhD project at NIAB perfectly marries my interest in plant sciences with the interface towards industry/agriculture.
Cambridge has always been regarded as the hub of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) research in the UK. Within such a small city, we have access to the University of Cambridge – one of the best universities on the planet – as well as countless industries and research institutes. As a result, researching in Cambridge provides numerous collaboration opportunities with world leading researchers and their research groups. Not to mention Cambridge is a very beautiful city!
Why is the project important?
The focus of my PhD is to investigate how root hairs (small hair-like projections on the surface of roots) develop in bread wheat (Triticum aestivum).
Root hairs are extremely important for plants, as they massively increase the available surface area that roots have to interact with the soil. As a result, root hairs aid plant nutrient uptake from soil, as well as enhancing water uptake.
Understanding how root hairs develop in wheat will be the first step towards breeding wheat varieties with longer, denser root hairs – which will directly benefit crop health, yield and nutrient content.
What does my project involve?
My PhD project involves a wide range of scientific fields, ranging from molecular biology in the laboratory, computer-based bioinformatics, and field work.
We have identified a mutant wheat variety that produces no root hairs, and we are interested in finding out why/how this process is controlled. This has, so far, involved large scale genome sequencing projects and many hours of computational analysis.
The goal is to identify gene/genes that regulate root hair development, and subsequently develop genetic markers to target these genes within the UK wheat germplasm.
What is my future plan?
After my PhD, I would like to become a computational biologist. I would like to put into practice the skills and techniques I gain during my PhD to hopefully make a positive impact on the future of plant/crop research in the UK.