From the beginning of my academic career, I was more inclined towards investigating the behaviour of microbes, their inter- and intraspecies interactions and their response towards a changing environment. My master thesis was based on understanding the spatial and temporal dynamics of the soil microbial population that were exposed to an exogenous bacterial species in different environmental conditions. We all have witnessed a global rise in all kinds of pollution. However, the microbial community in any specific habitat is usually not specialized to degrade a particular pollutant. A very popular biological approach to eliminate such pollutants is the use of microbial species that have evolved the ability to transform a specific pollutant into less toxic or non-toxic forms. The question here is how will the original endogenous microbial population behave if such specialised “pollutant degraders” species are introduced into their habitat. My Masters project aimed to use fluorescence and time-lapse microscopy, and systems biology tools to understand the community dynamics when exposed to toxic compounds in the presence of exogenous species.
After my masters, I got more interested in understanding the genetic basis microbial adaptations with respect to their immediate environment. The environment that a specific microbe inhabits can be very variable, for example, it could be a toxic soil environment or the body of a host in case of pathogens. My PhD project will focus on understanding the genetic basis of host-pathogen interactions between wheat and Zymoseptoria tritici which is a major pathogenic fungus of wheat. I will use genome wide association (GWA) mapping as a tool to identify the genetic basis of different phenotypes including the pathogenicity of Z. tritici under different environmental conditions.