Dr Helen Cockerton
Dr Cockerton graduated from the University of York with a degree in biology before conducting a PhD in plant and environmental science at the University of Warwick. During her PhD she uncovered a gene amplification mediated mechanism of herbicide resistance in Amaranths. From here, Dr Cockerton went on to conduct postdoctoral research at NIAB EMR where she focused on quantifying genetic components controlling desirable traits in octoploid strawberry. Further projects involved the study of plant pathogen interactions, through using inter-kingdom RNAi to investigate the disease infection process and assisting the development of disease resistant varieties through guiding marker assisted breeding and genomic selection. In 2021, Dr Cockerton joined the University of Kent as an industrial research fellow. Her research group is comprised of 4 PhD students working on fungal pathogens of horticultural crops. The group is using CRISPR-Cas9 mediated gene editing to generate disease resistant strawberry varieties, identifying resistance loci to Verticillium nonalfalfae in hop and generating genomic resources for apple pathogens to identify host specific virulence factors.
Research interests are focused on developing advanced techniques for improved crop modification. These include novel methods of gene insertion and the exploitation of ‘rapid evolution’ individuals. Interests also incorporate the development of environmentally-safe crop protection strategies, namely the exploitation of RNAi to assist the control of plant pathogens. Ultimately, all research efforts are driven by the desire to translate genetic advances into horticulture.
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