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Harding Distinguished Postgraduate Scholars Programme


  Isobel Magrath


  Plant Sciences, Christ's College

  PhD thesis: Unravelling the molecular basis of plant carbon allocation to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi



Research interests:

  1. Plant-microbe symbioses
  2. Methods of studying membrane transporter function
  3. Improving the sustainability of agriculture

The symbiosis between plants and arbscular mycorrhizal fungi is ancient and widespread. The basis of this symbiosis is nutrient exchange, with plants providing photosynthetically fixed carbon to the fungi in exchange for minerals and water. Despite being critical to the symbiosis, we have little knowledge of the molecular basis of plant carbon allocation to the fungi. My PhD aims to characterise the specific roles of membrane transporters in providing carbon to arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, to develop an updated model of plant-wide carbon flux during symbiosis. Additionally, I will examine transcriptional differences in carbon provisioning transporters between different plant-fungi pairs to understand how carbon allocation varies across symbioses between different species.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your research interests/

I first became interested in microbiology when I read Giulia Enders’ book, Gut. After majoring in microbiology and molecular biology during my undergraduate degree, I did a molecular biology honours project in the Plant Science department at ANU. There, I met several wonderful supervisors who shared their passion for plant science with me. At the same time, I learned about the extent of the food security crisis and the worrying number of challenges facing agriculture. My PhD project combines my love of both microbiology and plant science while contributing to a field that could improve the sustainability of agriculture.