Hi! And welcome to the lab page.
We are in our infancy, and by "we", I mean just me. I have just started a lab at the University of Birmingham in the School of Biosciences. But before "I" can become "us", I need to find some people who would like to work with me. That is the purpose of this web-page and the topic of my first blog. So, who am I and what do I work on?
I am a plant pathologist who works on the genomics of plant pathogenic fungi. In particular I have worked primarily with three wheat pathogens... prepare yourself for long species names... Parastagonospora nodorum, Zymoseptoria tritici and Bipoloaris sorokiniana. After living eight years in Australia, where every word is shortened to the smallest possible abbreviation, I refer to these species affectionately as "Stago", "Zymo" and "Bsoro". These three fungal species are what I would call my "model fungi", meaning that I use these organisms as a basis for experiments which try to tease out bigger biological questions.
Currently my biggest question is how do these fungi tolerate large chromosomal re-arrangements? Tolerate is not really the best word to use because these fungi do not just tolerate re-arrangements, it is a part of their everyday routine. If you take a random sample of these fungi from an infected leaf you will regularly observe individuals that have gained or lost a chromosome or translocated several 100 Kb around the genome, with seemingly, little to no detrimental effect (at least not one that we can measure). Part of my work is descriptive, simply categorising the number and nature of these chromosome re-arrangements in many different fungal individuals. The more individuals we look at the better sense we get of how widespread this phenomenon is in a wheat field. This gives us a little insight into how important this plasticity might be for pathogenicity.
Once we describe and categorise these rearrangements, then the really fun work begins. Figuring out how these chromosomes move. And this is where my lab story begins, and hopefully soon maybe the story of someone reading this blog?
Academic science can be a tough career to pursue and there is a lot of discussion about the pro-cons of academia on many forums. I have many thoughts about this but that is probably a topic for another day. What I can say now is that the fungal biology/plant pathology community is a really supportive and enthusiastic group and in my lab I will certainly do my best to uphold this reputation.
So, Hi and welcome! do you have a favourite fungus that likes to lose chromosomes?