Catriona Walker

The roles of phytohormones in carpic dominance and floral arrest

About me

I carried out my undergraduate degree at the University of Stirling, where I fell in love with plants during my final year while carrying out my dissertation. After graduating, I further cemented my desire to work with plants while undertaking a summer research assistant role at the University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. I then returned to Stirling to spend a year working as a research technician. I moved to the University of Glasgow to do an MRes in Plant Science to help decide exactly what area I wanted to work in, and decided that I was particularly interested in applied research. I was fortunate to get a place on a graduate scheme with ADAS, an agricultural research company, where I worked for a little over two years as a crop pathology consultant. While working at ADAS, I became acutely aware of the knowledge transfer gap between fundamental and applied research, and realised this was the area I really wanted to focus on. I ultimately decided that the best way to approach this was from a different perspective, and made the move to return to academia. I moved to Leeds and spent some time working as a technician for my current supervisor. During this time I was able to carry out work which encompassed both fundamental and applied research, which I hugely enjoyed, and which has now become the focus of my PhD.

My project

My project focuses on the roles of phytohormones in the control of carpic dominance and the end of flowering. Carpic dominance is the process whereby developing seeds exhibit dominance over newer seeds, with results varying from mild (a decrease in fruit size) to severe (total inhibition of fruit development). This process acts as a significant limit on yield, as it occurs in situations even where resources are not limiting. Similarly, the end of flowering signifies the final point at which seed and fruits can develop and as such is also a large limiting factor to yield. There has been surprisingly little research carried out on either of these areas, and I hope to use a range of techniques to understand these processes in more detail. Initially, I plan to carry out basic microsurgical experiments to remove plant organs and assess the effects on both carpic dominance and the end of flowering, to fully understand the processes that are occurring. I intend to work primarily with the model species Arabidopsis thaliana, and the crop species Brassica napus (oilseed rape). My aim is that by the end of my PhD I will have successfully identified the mechanisms underlying both carpic dominance and the end of flowering in Arabidopsis, and will be able to utilise this information to affect these processes in oilseed rape.


Twitter: @CHollyWalker