Rothamsted profiles


Current Fourth Years
Current Third Years
Current Second Years
Current First Years

Current Fourth Years

Ishbel Hayes

Ishbel graduated from the University of Aberdeen in 2019 with a BSc in Ecology. Her final year project focused on the oviposition preferences of northern brown argus on its host plant Helianthemum nummularium.

Ishbel’s research will build on her longstanding interest in lepidoptera by focusing on the impact of light pollution on moth populations. This will involve modelling the impacts of light between polluted and unpolluted sites and identifying potential genetic differentiation or gene flow between populations of lit and unlit landscapes. This project is supervised by Dr James Bell and Dr Ramiro Morales-Hojas from Rothamsted Research and Prof Kevin Gaston and Dr Jon Bennie from University of Exeter.

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Current Third Years

Sophia Anastacha 

Standard studentship with associate partner: In collaboration with Rothamsted + Swansea

Sophia graduated from the University of Greenwich in 2018 with a BSc in Commercial Horticulture. Her final year project, a collaboration with PlantWorks Ltd, focused on the effect of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on tomato plants subjected to abiotic stresses. It was during this project that Sophia became fascinated with the complex nature of plant-microbe interactions. After this, she worked as a Research Technician for a year at Driscoll’s UK Ltd, during which she focused on the micropropagation of soft fruits for berry breeding programmes. Sophia then went on to graduate from Harper Adams University with a PgD in Plant Pathology.

Sophia’s PhD project, a collaboration between Rothamsted Research and Swansea University, aims to identify how the stage of the life cycle and type of mycorrhizal fungal structures alter root cell metabolism of colonised roots by creating the first small molecule maps of mycorrhizal roots using state-of-the-art mass spectrometry imaging technology.

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Victoria Armer

Victoria graduated from the University of Bristol in 2020 with a MSci in Biology, where she completed her final year project in the lab of Prof. Alistair Hetherington looking at CO2 and drought-induced signaling pathways resulting in stomatal closure.

During her undergraduate studies, she undertook a BSPP funded summer studentship at The Sainsbury Laboratory in the group of Dr Matthew Moscou, where she investigated the wild barley diversity collection (WBDC) as a source of novel resistance for Pyricularia oryzae (teleomorph Magnaporthe oryzae), the causal agent of blast disease on the Poaceae (true grasses). This opportunity ignited an interest in plant-pathogen interactions, which Victoria hopes to explore further with her PhD project investigating communication mechanisms between the fungal pathogen Fusarium graminearum and wheat, under the supervision of Prof Kim Hammond-Kosack (RRes) and Dr Michael Deeks (Exeter).

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Erika Kroll

Erika graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2020 with a BSc in Biological Science (Plant Science). During her degree she worked as an undergraduate research assistant under Dr Naomi Nakayama to study the mechanisms underlying informed dispersal of the dandelion seed. For her final year project, she worked with Dr Attila Molnar to elucidate whether the targeted gene-editing process of single-stranded template repair (SSTR) is independent of homologous recombination in the model organism Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Her work was awarded the Lang Scholarship Prize for the Plant Science Top Project.

Erika’s PhD Project is titled “Fusarium disease of wheat – exploring tissue specific host-pathogen interactions using a systems biology approach” and is supervised by Dr Martin Urban. The project aims to elucidate genetic interactions between Fusarium graminearum and wheat through a combination of molecular genetics, transcriptomics, microscopy, and computational biology.

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Current Second Years

Hannah Romanowski

Hannah graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a BSc in Zoology in 2019, where she did her final project in urban ecology focussing on the effects of urban variables on the diet of red foxes. She has since completed an MSc in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Bristol.

She will be studying long-term trends in the abundance and phenology of migrating insects, under the supervision of Dr James Bell and the Rothamsted Insect Survey. Trends will be investigated in relation to climate and landscape variables. This will be then linked to population ecology of insectivorous birds and bats, to investigate if these long-term trends are potential drivers of change.

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Izayana Sandoval-Carvajal

CASE studentship

Izayana graduated from the University of Costa Rica in 2014 with a BSc in biology, three years later she got a degree in molecular biology and biotechnology, and in 2020 she completed her MSc in bioinformatics and system biology at the same University.

Her experience has been focused on mainly virus expression studies by transcriptomics, and also diagnosis and detection of plant viruses, viroids, and bacteria limited to the vascular system. Additionally, aphid molecular taxonomy and characterization of their bacterial endosymbionts. She is passionate about science and enjoys being constantly learning new things. One of her main interests is to contribute to disease management efforts, especially because in her country agriculture is one of the main economical activities.

Currently, she is a student of the University of Bristol and she is developing her doctoral research in Rothamsted Research where she is determining the source of resistance against Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) in a resistant line of wheat under the supervision of Prof. Kim Hammond-Kosack, Prof Gary Foster and Dr. Chris Burt.

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Current First Years

Natasha Brock

Tash graduated from the University of York with a BSc in Biological Sciences (with a Year in Industry) in 2022. During her Year in Industry, Tash worked in the Novel Human Genetics Research Unit at GlaxoSmithKline. Her final year project with Prof Neil Bruce was characterising the Glutathione detoxification pathway of TNT and Copper in Arabidopsis thaliana at the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP).

Tash’s PhD will be based at the Rothamsted Research, supervised by Prof Nigel Halford, with co-supervisors Dr David Withall (Rothamsted) and Dr Gary Barker (University of Bristol). The main aim of her PhD is to use CRISPR/Cas9 to re-engineer wheat to alter its amino acid metabolism.

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Nathan Roberts

Nathan graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a BSc in Biology in 2021. During the summer before his final year, he was awarded an SWBio studentship to gain experience in Dr Smita Kurup’s lab at the agricultural research centre Rothamsted Research, where he further developed his interests in plant science. Following completion of his undergraduate degree, Nathan began a research master’s in Dr Keara Franklin’s lab at the University of Bristol, investigating the effects of preharvest, UV-B light treatments on delaying dark-induced senescence.

For his PhD, Nathan will be researching the hormonal and genetic regulatory pathways involved in controlling/increasing ovule numbers in important agricultural crops such as Brassica napus. His project is being undertaken at Rothamsted Research under the main supervision of Dr Smita Kurup.

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Anusha Mohankumar

CASE studentship with associate partner: In collaboration with Rothamsted Research + University of the West of England (UWE) 

Anusha graduated with a BSc Agriculture Sciences from the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, in 2018 and an MSc Entomology from Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, West Bengal in 2020. Her research focused on understanding the population dynamics of arthropods in the cabbage ecosystem. Post studies, she worked as a junior researcher at Tranalab Pvt Ltd, where she gained experience in molecular cloning, plant transformation and tissue culture.

Her research experience and passion for helping the agricultural society motivated her to undertake the PhD under the Syngenta CASE Project, which aims to identify semiochemicals in soil. The semiochemical blends identified through the project act in a non-toxic mode of action and can provide an environmentally benign alternative for the management of wireworms. This project is supervised by Dr Jozsef Vuts (Rothamsted Research), Dr Pete Maxfield (the University of the West of England) and Dr Benedikt Kurtz (Syngenta).

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