In 2020 I graduated from The University of Sheffield with an MBiolSci in Biology, where I developed a passion for plant and fungal biology. Following numerous small undergraduate projects, my interests began to focus on food security, particularly at a molecular and mechanistic level. During my final year project, I focussed on the characterisation of a new strain of powdery mildew discovered in Sheffield, while establishing a new model pathosystem for the interaction between Arabidopsis thaliana and this novel strain. Here, I used epifluorescence microscopy to determine the presence of penetration pegs in callose deposits: cell wall appositions synthesised by Arabidopsis in the cell wall in defence against the fungal pathogen. My final year project in particular sparked an interest in the importance of cell wall development and biosynthesis, particularly within fungi. This PhD was, therefore, especially appealing to me, as it combined many of my interests while also allowing me to integrate both physical and life science approaches.
Zymoseptoria tritici causes septoria leaf blotch of wheat, the most devastating foliar cereal disease affecting global modern agriculture, with losses of up to 50% globally. As the leading source of vegetable protein, wheat is arguably the most important crop for human consumption, and its production is vital for food security. As a result, the identification of new targets for fungicide development is critical, as rising resistance to existing fungicides limits the control of Zymoseptoria tritici.
In this project, I therefore aim to establish biochemical assays based on existing preliminary protein data to improve understanding of the mechanisms of fungal wall biosynthesis, particularly, ß-glucan biosynthesis, one of the main components present in the fungal cell wall. Throughout my PhD, I also aim to improve the understanding of the mechanisms of fungal cell wall biosynthesis by using various molecular and microscopic techniques. The integration of physical science techniques, such as atomic force microscopy (AFM) and super-resolution optics (STORM), will allow me to develop fungal cell wall tracking to answer numerous fundamental questions in molecular biology, relating specifically to fungal cell wall composition and biosynthesis. My findings will hope to further aid in the identification of targets for the development of future cell-based assays.