We sat down with Sophien to find out more about the story behind the scientist:
Could you explain your research in 5 words?
Never bet against the pathogen.
Okay, now in a few more words..
Plants have an immune system, and it’s complicated. This drives rapid evolution of pathogens, so we aim to understand the similarities in mechanisms of virulence and adaptation between plant pathogens and the disease-resistance toolkit and regulatory networks that underlie plant immunity.
Could you explain one technique you use regularly?
CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing. We love it, it’s totally transformed how we do research. The best way to explain this is that the genome is like a book, consisting of text, and with CRISPR-Cas9 we can modify just a few specific letters in the book. This is the ultimate in precision for genetic modification.
What about your field of research is most exciting to you right now?
The most exciting area to me is how we’re finding evolutionary similarities between immune receptors from different plant species, in terms of how they activate immunity. These similarities are both evolutionary and functional.
What keeps you busy when you’re not in the lab?
Traveling, walking, movies, food.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a scientist?
I would be a scientist – there’s no other option! I would be a scientist even if wasn’t paid for it!
What’s the most enjoyable thing about your job?
The sense of excitement when you discover something new and then sharing that experience with your colleagues.
How has the 2Blades Foundation been beneficial to your work?
2Blades has brought a high degree of professionalism and expertise to The Sainsbury Laboratory in terms of our capacity to interact with industrial partners. We didn’t have this before, so it’s been a highly synergistic interaction.