Dr Pallavi Singh

Photo of Dr Pallavi Singh

MSc (Lucknow), PhD (JNU).

Research Fellow; Adviser to BAME Students
John Henry Coates Research Fellow

My long-term research aim is to carry out high quality research that has agricultural relevance. 9.5 billion people are projected to live on the planet by 2050. Thus, feeding this massive population with minimal environmental perturbation is a daunting challenge to humanity. As a plant scientist from India, the second largest rice-growing nation, I am truly aware of the problems faced by rice farmers and so wish to make a positive difference in their lives via rice research. Despite being a global food staple, rice uses an inefficient version of photosynthesis, known as C3 photosynthesis. This inefficiency arises from a poor CO2 acquisition process. Some plants have overcome this with a more efficient photosynthetic mechanism termed C4 photosynthesis. Converting rice to use C4 photosynthesis is expected to increase yields by around 50% and also to enhance water and nitrogen use efficiency.

With this in mind, I moved to Cambridge in 2017, to take up a position of a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Plant Sciences. My current research focuses on elucidating the regulatory networks governing C4 photosynthesis. The aim of my work is to better understand the evolution of the C4 pathway such that in long term this metabolism can be integrated into rice. My interest in rice has a long history. This journey started in India, during my PhD, which focused on understanding the mechanisms imparting flooding tolerance in rice. The results of my PhD provided a mechanistic understanding of submergence tolerance in rice, that is, now being used to inform the deployment of this trait in breeding programmes. I later moved as a post- doctoral associate to Cornell University, Ithaca, USA. where my research focused on the interaction of rice with its bacterial pathogen Xanthomonas and understanding the role of transcription activator-like (TAL) effector proteins during this interplay. The study identified the role of TAL effectors in bidirectional transcription which contributed to pathogenicity in rice.

In addition to the time in research, I am involved in a number of departmental activities. As part of the postdoctoral committee at the department, I am in-charge of organizing the departmental seminars. I am also a part of the global food security initiative and organizing an annual-event of a two-week long visit of African researchers to the department. I am also an advocate of public engagement and outreach and actively participate in Science-on-Sundays talk at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. I am a STEM-ambassador and strongly believe in encouraging inspiring and nurturing young students to achieve more and progress further in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I like engaging in inter-disciplinary discussions and am looking forward to interactions with the members of Emmanuel.

In my spare time, I like getting outdoors in nature, walking, hiking and cycling. I have a keen interest in calligraphy and like practicing some ancient scripts. I am also an avid fan of cooking and currently testing my baking skills.