Beverley Harris

I have always found the investigative demands of de novo science extremely stimulating and satisfying hence my natural progression into a PhD. Here, I am given the opportunity to gain insight into a specific field of microbiology concerning phytopathogenic fungi and crop security. Presently, my studies allow me to push the boundaries of current knowledge regarding intra-molecular interactions which occur between plant and benign/ pathogenic fungi in order to exploit naturally occurring chemicals that dictate an organisms' survival. Moreover, my project allows me to gain the opportunity for insight in securing global agriculture by natural means. If the precise mechanism in which Trichoderma hamatum achieves biocontrol is deduced then the need for costly fertilizers would be reduced which, in turn, would prevent toxic accumulation of nitrogen and phosporous compounds in the water cycle.

Future analyses may involve quantitive and qualitive assays that determine chemical pathways in both plant and fungi. For example, can ROS production in necrotrophic fungi be upregulated by Trichoderma exudates? Which phytohormones (associated with Systemic Acquired Resistance) are expressed when Trichoderma-treated plants are infected with a mycopathogen? Could the necrotrophic effects of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum be significantly reduced with Trichoderma? On what basis does this occur?

Microarray and Mass Spec analyses may provide the answer to a biochemical conundrum. Furthermore, analyses involving Trichoderma secondary metabolite clusters may give insight as to the biocontrol ability of Trochoderma. Regardless of the scientific techniques that could be incorporated in my research, I would fully appreciate an opportunity to explore the intricate and historic mechanisms in which fungi hunt and evade other fungi; a mechanism that has survived for at least 500 million years.