Lucas Gent

I received my first degree from the University of Manchester (BSc Biology (Hons)). During these 3 three years I developed a love for plant science. I continued my academic progression straight away through a postgraduate Masters program (MSc Plant Science, by Research), also at the University of Manchester. Currently I am a first year PhD candidate at the University of Lancaster. As a member of Professor Brian Forde’s Laboratory I am undertaking some exciting research that we believe will have a major impact on the food security challenge.

Highest Achievement: MSc Plant Science, by research- Distinction

Research areas

Project Title: Using chemical genetics as a tool to explore nitrogen regulatory pathways in wheat development

One aspect of the food security challenge is the need to improve the nitrogen use-efficiency of crops. Currently farmers apply large volumes of nitrogenous fertilisers to the soil, of which only 30-50% is utilised by the crop. In aerobic soils, nitrate, is the main form of nitrogen available to roots. Aside from acting as a nutrient, nitrate is also a signalling molecule with many ‘hormone-like’ properties. These properties are linked to numerous developmental effects that govern many key agronomic traits (e.g. root growth, tillering and flowering time). By fully understanding the signalling role of nitrate, opportunities to modify the relationship between nitrate and development should arise. We will employ a chemical genetics approach, using a library of small molecules in conjunction with a patented micro-phenotyping technique with the aim of identifying novel bioactive molecules that are able to perturb the nitrate signalling pathway in the model plant species, Arabidopsis thaliana. Using these molecules as probes will allow us to gain a better mechanistic understanding of nitrate signalling. Chemical genetics is a powerful approach as it removes many of the complications associated with traditional Mendelian genetics. Chemical probes identified using Arabidopsis thaliana will generally be applicable for manipulating the same processes in wheat.

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