PhD Student

Mr Mihails Delmans


Mihails is a PhD student in the Haseloff Lab, with an Engineering background as an undegraduate. His research topic is the regulation of cell proliferation in Marchantia gemmae. In collaboration with Bernardo Pollak, he has developed an open source gene-centric database platform for managing genome data and synthetic DNA parts for Marchantia. He maintains a strong interest in enginnering approaches to biological problems, and explots his considerable expertise with electronics, optics and 3D printing to build and modify instrumentation for observing Marchantia cell dynamics.

His PhD research combines the construction of new marker genes, expression in Marchantia gemma, quantitative imaging and software analysis in order to map the dynamics of growth in gemmae. He has found evidence of long distance control of cell proliferation which can be deregulated by surgical manipulations. 

Ms Marta Tomaselli

I did my bachelor and master in Biotechnology in Pisa, where I discovered how fascinating plants can be. In the past, I have worked with CRISPR/Cas9 system in two different plant models: Arabidopsis thaliana and Marchantia polymorpha. These were my first experiences related to synthetic biology and they, really, got me involved into it.

In September 2016 I started as an OpenPlant PhD student at the University of Cambridge. In my first year I will do three lab rotations before beginning my final PhD project. During my first rotation in the Haseloff Lab, I have been developing microscopy techniques to image M. polymorpha gemmae. These tools will allow to retain the signal coming from fluorescent proteins in fixed samples and exploit them to achieve a 3D representation of the plant tissue.

For my second rotation, I moved to a different topic, working in the Schornack lab. This project focuses on plant-pathogen interactions: we are looking for pathogen-responsive promoters in M. polymorpha. These sequences can be exploited to generate new reporter lines.

In the future, I would like to continue working with Marchantia and exploit this plant as a model to implement new synthetic circuits. I think that the OpenPlant Community is a great resource for a PhD student, since a lot of different topics are covered by senior researchers to whom you can ask questions and suggestions about your own project.

Mr Louis Wilson

I started as an OpenPlant PhD student at the University of Cambridge in September 2016, where I will complete three rotation projects before selecting my final PhD project. I am interested in all parts of plant biochemistry, but my projects tend to focus on the characterization and manipulation of enzymes and catalytic pathways.

In my first rotation project, I worked with Prof. Alison G Smith in Cambridge on metabolic gene clusters, developing methods for the expression of higher plant clusters in algae and yeast, and the detection of potential clusters endogenous to algae themselves. During this time I wrote a number of computer scripts for cluster detection and began the assembly of a heterologous expression system using a yeast MoClo system from the Dueber Lab.

Now in my second rotation project, I am working with Paul Dupree to study and engineer cell wall-modifying enzymes for improved crops, food and materials. I have been using OpenPlant heterologous expression systems and a transient expression construct from the Lomonossoff lab to assess the stability of glycosyltransferases in vitro, with the aim of finding better enzymes for further study and exploitation. Increasing our understanding of these enzymes may ultimately permit the creation of designer fibres and saccharides, as well as being able to manipulate the properties of plant cell walls.

Mr Bernardo Pollak 

Bernardo Pollak is a 4th year PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge in Prof. Haseloff’s laboratory. As part of his PhD, he has been developing DNA assembly systems, methods for quantitative characterisation of gene expression and tools for precise manipulation of gene expression for engineering of morphogenesis in Marchantia.

Before joining the Haseloff group, he obtained his undergrad degree in Biochemistry after coursing one year of Civil Engineering in Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. During his undergrad thesis, he gathered support and led the first team from Chile to participate in iGEM in 2012. He has been interested in marine luminescent bacteria, isolating environmental strains and performing directed evolution experiments to obtain optimised lux reporters. As part of his luminescence work, he produced a bioluminescent dress featured in Wired as part of a collaboration with Anton Kan, former member of the Haseloff lab, and Victoria Geany from the Royal College of Arts.