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Personal profile

Overview

 

Dr. Barrero-Sicilia is Lecturer in Biomedical Science (Genetics) at the Department of Clinical, Pharmaceutical and Biological Science. Cristina is an expert plant molecular biologist focused in elucidating plant biological mechanisms such as seed development/germination or plant response to abiotic stresses, and transferring the acquired knowledge in model plants to improve traits in agronomic crops.

Research highlights 

By exploiting the potential of disciplines such as genetics, molecular biology, bio-imaging and mathematical modelling and computing, I build up my research career underlying the biochemistry and gene regulation networks governing plant physiology.

Working with model plants (such as Arabidopsis, tobacco) and crops (mainly maize and barley), during my PhD I achieved the molecular characterization of the MYB-R1 transcription factor, now considered as the master regulator of cell differentiation in the transfer cells of the seed (University of Alcala, Spain). In Prof. Carbonero’s lab (Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics, Madrid, Spain) I conceived and developed the system A. thaliana-Brachypodium dystachion-barley for the study of the DOF and bZIP transcription factor families as regulatory networks operating during seed development, germination and subsequent reserve mobilization. In the Lipidomic Group (led by Prof. J. Napier) at Rothamsted Research (UK) I worked on how the oil metabolism operates in an extremophile plant, Eutrema salsugineum, that has the traits of oil synthesis and stress tolerance (P.I. Dr. R. Haslam and Dr. L. Michaelson). 

Research interests

Enhancing Plant Stress Resilience during Seed Development and Germination

Linking my expertise in seed development/germination together with an expansion in my knowledge/skills on plant response to abiotic stresses, my research area is focused in advance the understanding in the role of the ABA phytohormone in a scenario of inter-connection between these physiological processes, in both model (Arabidopsis, Brachypodium) and crop species (oilseed rape, wheat, barley). It is widely recognized that the ABA is the major factor implicated in the imposition and maintenance of seed dormancy, preventing germination before the completion of seed maturation and therefore, inhibiting the pre-harvest sprouting (PHS) that leads to a reduction in grain quality, yield and viability, with severe economic consequences. In addition, decades of research focused to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that govern plant adaptive response to adverse environmental condition such as drought, salinity, cold or high temperature, which can reduce average productivity of crops by 50-80%. ABA represents a crucial signal for plant response to such abiotic stresses, leading the adaptive transcriptional response to resist those adverse conditions. Using approaches such quantitative genetics and next-generation sequencing technologies provide new opportunities to identify new genetic components responsible of trait variation.

Teaching specialisms

Along with my research career I have always been committed to undertake research-led teaching and academic activities both as lecturer at the Biotechnology Department of the Universidad Politecnica de Madrid and as a supervisor of undergraduate and postgraduate students, besides PhD fellows. My teaching experience started at the Cellular and Genetic Dept. of the Universidad de Alcala (UAH), where I collaborate as lab assistant. Afterwards, I could participate as Lecturer in Grade and Post-Grade Programs of Agrobiotecnology at Univ. Politecnica de Madrid (UPM).  I could supervise the Master Thesis Project of some of the best students in this field, and even better, some of them obtained PhD Fellowship to address the PhD Thesis. Under my supervision, all the students contributed to the publication of high quality research articles, demonstrating a high implication and motivation in the Research.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD Biology, Summa cum laude, Molecular characterization of the transcriptional regulator ZmMRP-1 in maize

20002005

Award Date: 2 Dec 2005

B.S. Science (Cell and Molecular Biology), Universidad de Alcala

19952000

External positions

Visiting Scientist, Rothamsted Research, Plant Science Dept., Herts AL5 2JQ

18 Apr 201718 Jul 2017

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Rothamsted Research, Plant Science Dept., Herts AL5 2JQ

2 Dec 201318 Apr 2017

Postdoctoral Research, Centro de Biotecnología y Genómica de Plantas (UPM-INIA), ETSI Agrónomos, Campus de Montegancedo, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid

1 Sept 200615 Dec 2013

Postdoctoral Research, Universidad de Alcala

1 Jan 200631 Jul 2006

Secondment Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Breading, Cologne, Germany

20022003

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