Frank Qasim Machin wins SULSA Early Career Researcher Prize
Dr Frank Machin, a Postdoctoral Research Associate has won the Scottish Universities Life Sciences Alliance (SULSA) Early Career Researcher (ECR) prize. Dr Machin is the SULSA ECR Prize Winner 2023 in the Plant category.
SULSA is an alliance of twelve Scottish Universities that aims to advance Scotland’s research and innovation in the life sciences.
This prize is awarded to early career scientists whose research work in life sciences shows excellent potential for impact on society. It includes a fully funded tour of three Scottish Universities to deliver seminars and to network.
Frank will be utilizing this to visit the Plant Sciences Department at the University of Dundee, the Agronomy Department at the University of Highlands and Islands, and the Plant Sciences Department at the University of Glasgow.
Frank works in the Plant Growth Control lab with research focussing on how plants coordinate growth and development.
Plants must make a lot of decisions during their lives – when to grow, when to flower, when to branch. This coordination between cells depends on exchanging signals, which can be in the form of nutrients, signalling proteins, or RNAs.
During his PhD, Frank studied how this signalling controls growth in roots and used these signals to modulate growth in poor conditions to improve crop growth.
Frank has developed a novel technique using tissue engineering to attach different plant tissues so that we can better study signal exchange between them.
Plant Development and Synthetic Biology
Frank’s research vision centres on developing a model for plant development that has a more complete understanding of the signals that each cell perceives.
Unlike in other systems such as animals, plant cells acquire their cell identities by position-based signalling. The signals that control this process for the majority of cell types are unknown. Identifying these signals and their modes of action will address key questions at the heart of cell biology.
To truly understand a biological system, it is necessary to be able to build and recreate it. By including synthetic biology approaches, Frank will test the limits of current models by engineering novel biological systems.
Frank envisions that these studies can also be applied to other organisms such as mammals, Drosophila and Planaria.
By comparing strategies that different organisms use for the molecular coordination of patterning in development, we can shed more light on the evolution of life on earth and the origins of different strategies for coordinating growth and development in multicellular organisms.