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Early Stage Researchers

Our Early Stage Researchers reflect the global importance of integrated programmes in cereal disease control. Our current cohort of researchers represent 13 countries from 4 continents.

Ms Sobia AjazPK flag IE flag

University College Dublin

Sobia Ajaz, who is originally from Pakistan, has specialist qualifications in the areas of bioinformatics and biotechnology. She is currently working as an Early Stage Researcher at University College Dublin under the supervision of Professor Fiona Doohan.

Before joining UCD, Sobia worked as a researcher at NIBGE on a Pakistan Agricultural Research Board Project examining multi-gene resistance to the cotton leaf curl virus.

Sobia holds a BS (Bioinformatics) from GC University, Faisalabad, and an MS from CIIT, Islamabad.

Ms Myriam DeshaiesFR flag IE flag

Auranta / Envirotech Innovative Products Ltd

Myriam comes from Reims, France. She studied physics and chemistry for three years at Roosevelt High School before joining the ESBS (Ecole Supérieure de Biotechnologie de Strasbourg) for another three years. She carried out an internship as a research assistant at A&L Canada Laboratories Inc. to develop a molecular based technique to study nematode communities. She graduated as an engineer in biotechnology and with a Masters in plant biology and valorisation.

As an early stage researcher for the CerealPath program, at Auranta under the supervision of Dr Patrick Ward and is co-supervised by Professor Fiona Doohan of University College Dublin.

Auranta is a company that is developing and commercialising a pre-harvest bioactive citrus derivative to be used against post-harvest spoilage.

The main objectives of Myriam are to evaluate the effects of the product on various plant fungal diseases, determine its mode of action, test different methods of application and develop the product in order to be commercialised.

Ms Anna Kaja HoeyerDK flag IE flag

Trinity College Dublin

Anna Kaja is Danish and studying for her Ph.D. at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. Within the CerealPath program she is working on a project which aims to isolate and characterise novel fungal root endophytes from wild relatives of barley and wheat for resistance to Fusarium and Gaeumannomyces. The aim of the project is to reduce disease symptoms caused by two important cereal diseases by using endophytes as biological control agents.

Anna Kaja was educated at the University of Copenhagen. As part of her M.Sc. in Agriculture she worked with Clonostachys rosea as an endophyte and a biocontrol agent of Fusarium wilt in tomato. To learn even more about endophytes, she did an internship at Landcare Research, Manaaki Whenua, New Zealand where she investigated endophyte communities of the invasive weed Field Horsetail.

Mr Ngonidzashe KangaraZW flag GB flag

John Innes Centre

Further details to follow!

Mr Sujit Jung KarkiNP flag IE flag

University College Dublin

Sujit received his Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology from Purbanchal University Nepal. He then moved to Dundee, UK where he studied Masters of Science in Biotechnology (2013) and Masters of Science in International Business and Marketing (2015).

During his Master's thesis he worked on the role of circadian clock in potato hypersensitivity response at James Hutton Institute, UK under supervision of Dr Robert Hancock.

Sujit is currently an Early Stage Researcher at University College Dublin under the supervision of Dr Angela Feechan. His current work focuses on identification and characterization Zymoseptoria tritici fungal effectors of wheat.

Mr Markus C. KolodziejDE flag CH flag

Universitaet Zuerich

Markus originally comes from a small town south of Munich, Germany. From 2010 to 2015 he studied Biology in the Bachelor and Master program of the Faculty of Biology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany. After achieving his Master of Science in Biology, he started his PhD at the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of Zurich, Switzerland in 2016.

While working mainly on symbiotic plant-fungus interactions during his Bachelor and Master studies, he will now take a look at the pathogenic interactions of wheat and the fungus Puccinia triticina which causes the wheat leaf rust disease. During his PhD in the group of Professor Beat Keller, he wants to investigate novel genes responsible for leaf rust resistance.


Ms Meike LatzDE flag DK flag

Københavns Universitet

Meike was educated in biology at RWTH University in Aachen (Germany), with a focus on molecular cell biology and microbiology. She developed her interest in plant pathology and plant-microbe interactions during her Bachelor's thesis at the biotech company ABiTEP GmbH (Berlin, Germany) in 2012.

After receiving her Master's degree in 2014, this led her to join Professor Gero Steinberg's lab at the University of Exeter (UK). There she worked as a research assistant on fungal phytophathogens and their mechanisms to overcome the plant's defense system during the early infection stages, in particular of Zymoseptoria tritici on wheat.

Beginning of 2016, Meike started working on the ESR 6 project on integrated control of wheat foliar diseases with endophytes and silicon, under the direction of Dr Hans Jorgensen at the University of Copenhagen.


Mr Keshav MallaNP flag IE flag

University College Dublin

Keshav is originally from Surkhet, Nepal. He completed a Master's in Applied and Commercial Biotechnology from Hedmark University College (HUC), Norway in 2014. His project, entitled "Mapping and validation of powdery mildew resistance loci from spring wheat cultivar 'Naxos' with SNP markers" was a collaborative venture between HUC, NMBU and Graminor.

Following successful completion of his MSc, he worked in a plant breeding company, Graminor, in Norway for one year on a Fusarium Head Blight resistance project.

Keshav is now an Early Stage Researcher at University College Dublin working on a project entitled "Development of molecular markers for Fusarium head blight resistance breeding" under the supervision of Professor Fiona Doohan, Dr Sebastian Praud and Dr Simon Berry. The project is in collaboration with two companies Limagrain and Biogemma. The objective of this project is to develop molecular markers for FHB resistance that is useful for plant breeders in marker-assisted selection.

Mr Jose Moreno AmoresEC flag AT flag

Universitaet fuer Bodekultur Wien

Jose Moreno Amores is originally from Ecuador where he studied biotechnology engineering and worked at the National Institute for Agricultural Research INIAP-Ecuador, helping to assess the genetic diversity of important crops like barley and potato through molecular markers like SSR, ISSR.

In 2015, he moved to Barcelona where he completed a Masters in Bioinformatics at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona and carried out an internship at the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG), developing a new genome browser for melon. He also studied Multivariate Data Analysis at Universidad de Salamanca.

Now he is an Early Stage Researcher at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna (BOKU) working on a project examining the genomic prediction of Fusarium head blight resistance in adapted bread/durum wheat germplasm under the supervision of Professor Hermann Burstmayr.

Ms Cyrielle NdougonnaTD flag GB flag

John Innes Centre

Cyrielle was born in N'Djamena, Chad. Growing up in Chad, she developed a keen interest in development matters and particularly in how science could help find solutions to issues linked to food security.

In 2008 she moved to France for higher education. She earned a BSc in chemistry and chemical engineering from Ecole Superieure de Chimie Organique et Minerale in 2012 and a MSc from the same institution in 2014. Following this, she pursued her interest in plant breeding and graduated from the University of Montpellier with a MSc in plant biology and biotechnology of tropical plants in 2015.

Cyrielle interned with AfricaRice Center in Benin and the John Innes Centre in the UK where she gained experience in grain quality analysis and quantitative genetics. While interning at Institut de Recherche pour le Developpement in France, she took part in a project studying the impact of the microbial communities of the phytobiome in driving plant disease dynamics in African rice fields.

Her research at the John Innes Centre under the supervision of Professor James Brown will focus on understanding the trade-offs between responses of wheat to biotrophic and necrotrophic pathogens.

Mr Md Atikur RahmanBD flag IE flag

Teagasc- the Agriculture and Food Development Authority

Atikur is from Bangladesh. From his childhood he had fondness for agriculture and thus chose to develop his career in it. He completed BS Agriculture from Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University, Gazipur. Then he did MSc in Biotechnology from South Asian University, New Delhi. After coming back to Bangladesh, he joined ACI Ltd., a leading private company, as a wheat breeder and worked there for two and half years. At ACI, he worked on mutational breeding and multi-parent introgression of wheat and iron & zinc biofortification project of rice. As he is eager to develop his career in wheat genetics and breeding, he considers his position as Early Stage Researcher (ESR) in CerealPath project as a great opportunity.

As an ESR, he is posted at Teagasc and enrolled at University College Dublin. Broadly, his project (ESR 13) involves in understanding (1) trade-off between yield and wheat resistance to Zymoseptoria tritici (Zt) and (2) variation in and interaction between fungal isolates and wheat genotypes in terms of Zt latent phase. The project will be conducted under the principal supervision of Dr Ewen Mullins, with input from Dr. Simon Berry, Mr. John Spink, Prof. Fional Doohan and Prof. James K Brown.


Mr Edward Rojas TayoCO flag DK flag

Københavns Universitet

Edward Camilo Rojas Tayo is a Colombian student with great passion about agricultural related topics. He carried out his bachelor studies in Agronomy at Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogota, Colombia.

Due to his outstanding academic record and motivation about science he was awarded with a Masters grant for students with qualifications from foreign universities at Université de Lausanne in Switzerland. There, he obtained his master degree in Molecular Life Sciences for his work on cassava genetics and its interaction with arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi (AMF).

In CerealPath, he saw the opportunity to meet his interest about plant-microbe interactions and the agricultural relevance of plant science. During his work as ESR7 at University of Copenhagen, under the guidance of Professor David Collinge, he will aim to understand the role of host genotype in the structure and function of the endobiome in wheat and its potential applications in controlling major diseases.

Mr Miguel SantosPT flag GB flag

John Innes Centre

Miguel Santos started his academic journey with a Bachelor's degree in Applied Biology from the University of Minho in Portugal. He worked with Arabidopsis thaliana during his project trying to establish a role between the SUMO protein machinery and ROS homeostasis. This work continued during his Master's degree in Molecular Genetics at the same University. His thesis focused on characterising a novel protein in the SUMO machinery of Arabidopsis thaliana.

Miguel is now working with Dr Paul Nicholson at the John Innes Centre where he is trying to identify resistance to take-all and Fusarium root rot diseases in wheat, using Brachypodium as a model plant.

Ms Karolina Słomińska-DurdasiakPL flag DE flag

Leibniz-Institut fuer Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung

Karolina Słomińska comes from a small town near Warsaw in Poland. She studyied biotechnology in the Warsaw University of Life Sciences. Her interest in plant-pathogen interactions started during Bachelor's degree, when she was studying the influence of silencing of selected genes on tomato susceptibility to potato cyst nematode infestation. The last half year of her studies she was on the ERASMUS+ programme, where she completed a research project in the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, Austria.

Now, Karolina is an Early Stage Researcher at Leibniz-Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research in Gatersleben under supervision of Dr Patrick Schweizer is working on a project focused on host-induced gene silencing (HIGS) as a biotechnological and natural tool for controlling cereal diseases, such as Fusarium head blight and powdery mildew.

Ms Silvia ZaniniIT flag DE flag

Justus-Liebig Universitaet Giessen

Silvia graduated from University of Pisa with a BSc in Agro-Industrial Biotechnologies in 2013. After obtaining a MSc in Molecular Biotechnology from University of Turin, she has recently started her PhD project under the supervision of Professor Kogel at Justus Liebig University, Giessen.

Her previous research experiences include plant-microorganism interactions, in particular understanding the molecular mechanisms of AM symbiosis in rice. Her interests recently have turned to plant-pathogen interactions and improving resistance to fungal diseases in crops.

Under the direction of Professor Kogel, she will focus on establishing Brachypodium distachion as a cereal model for HIGS and SIGS. She will also identify and test a number of RNAi targets for fungal diseases control.

This page was last updated on 13th November 2017