Bethan Soanes

Epigenetic temperature sensing in plants

About me

I have a strong interest in fundamental plant research that has applications of agronomic potential. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Birmingham, gaining experience in environmental genomics through some lab experience and research council courses in my first three years. This experience, where I got to network with PGR’s, encouraged me to convert from the BSc to the MSci program in my third year so that I could experience more hands on research. I completed my Msci lab project with Dr Juliet Coates, where I worked on a project transferring submergence and salinity tolerance genes from seaweed (identified through RNA-seq) into Arabidopsis, with the aim of using seaweed as a model for flooding tolerance in land plants. This involved a lot of molecular biology and plant handling techniques, and I thoroughly enjoyed working on such an applied problem directed towards food security. This encouraged me to look into PhD projects tackling similar problems, that would allow me to develop my skill set as a researcher. This led me to Professor Brendan Davies’ lab, and the project I am now working on.

Throughout my undergraduate career I also did a lot of outreach and EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) work. I was the president of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) society in my final year, where I ran an outreach program in several schools across Birmingham, and put together conferences and speaker events aimed at providing a platform for underrepresented people in STEM and addressing issues and barriers many face in research.

I am passionate both about plant science, food security and improving opportunities in STEM, and am excited to be developing these passions in my lab, at the University of Leeds, and in the White Rose DTP.

My project

My PhD project is working on uncovering mechanisms behind the effect of increased temperature on plant development, particularly the transition to flowering. This is based off previous work in the lab that shows a MADS box transcription factor, MAF2 (which codes for a repressor of flowering) adopts different splice isoforms at different temperatures, therefore affecting repression of flowering. A screen to identify aspects of this mechanism links epigenetic control of genes to the temperature response. I am working on elucidating the details of this mechanism, looking at mRNA biology, epigenetics and flowering using a variety of techniques in molecular biology, as well as CO-IP’s, RNA-seq and epigenetic sequencing tools, with the hopes of discovering new components and applying this mechanism to crops and modifying their development at specific temperatures. This could have exciting applications for food security in our warming climate, and reveal new agronomic targets.


Twitter: @SoanesK