Arsenic (As) is a Class I carcinogen which is found ubiquitously in the environment. Several factors, including irrigation with As contaminated ground-water and the use of arsenical pesticides has led to a build up of As in paddy fields in some areas, particularly south east Asia. Rice accumulates more As in the grain compared with other cereals, posing a serious health risk to populations with high rice consumption. The high amounts of inorganic As taken up by rice plants also results in a significant yield reduction. The aim of my project is to improve As tolerance in rice, leading to the development of tolerant varieties with increased yields and reduced accumulation of As in the food chain. A GM approach will be adopted, whereby efflux of As out of the plant is increased. This will be achieved by taking a gene from yeast (ScACR3) and expressing it in the roots of rice plants. This gene will transport As out of the root and into the surroundings, leading to a lower concentration of As in the rice.
Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, I studied at the University of Edinburgh where I attained a First class BSc (Hons) degree in Biological Sciences (Plant Science) in 2010. Throughout the summer months of 2010 and 2011, I worked as a Laboratory Attendant for the Agri-Food Biosciences Institute at a Plant Testing Station. I spent the months between as a Research Technician at the Institute of Molecular Plant Science at the University of Edinburgh where I gained valuable experience in a research laboratory environment. In 2011, I obtained a BBSRC Masters Training Grant to study for an MSc in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement at the University of East Anglia. This included a six-month research project I thoroughly enjoyed, leading me to apply for a PhD.