Emma White

Improving water-use efficiency in wheat by modulating leaf structure (CASE)

About me

Before joining the University of Sheffield as a PhD student, I graduated with an MBiol in Biotechnology and Microbiology from the University of York. My masters year project was focussed on uncovering potential sources of erucic acid contamination in commercial oilseed rape using a combination of genetic and biochemical approaches. During my career as a scientist so far, I have found myself to be increasingly enthusiastic about topics such as plant science and food security, as well as climate change and environmental issues. I feel passionately that people from all situations and backgrounds are aware of research and advances in such areas. Because of this, I am interested in science communication and I hope to build on this throughout my time on the White Rose DTP.

My project

Wheat is the most widely cultivated crop worldwide and has been selected for desirable traits since it was first grown as a crop around 8000-10,000 years ago. With predicted changes in precipitation due to climate change, being able to sustain wheat yields to feed the growing population presents a major challenge. The ideal situation would be to produce ‘more crop per drop’ and increase the water-use efficiency of the plants, meaning that the same yield could be achieved using less water. Across my four-year PhD project, supervised by Prof. Andrew Fleming, I will be attempting to answer the following ‘Big Question’: Can changes in wheat leaf structure improve water-use efficiency? I hope to achieve this by investing links between mesophyll cell shape, cell size and porosity, and how altering these influences stomatal conductance and water-use efficiency. This will be done using a combination of techniques, some of which include confocal microscopy, gene editing and gas exchange analysis. My PhD studentship also includes a 3-month CASE placement at RAGT Seeds in Cambridgeshire, which I will complete between the second and third year of my project.


Twitter: https://twitter.com/emmacw98

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/emma-white-29529b129/