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Dr Ulrike Bechtold

Associate Professor

Associate Professor in the Department of Biosciences


Awarded Grants

2021: Seed Meetings programme of the French Embassy in the United Kingdom: Plants in times of Climate change. Defining the role of redox and kinase signalling pathways in controlling plant growth under environmental stress (Co-Applicant Dr Christian Meyer, INRAE-AgroParisTech-University Paris Saclay)

2021: Royal Society International Exchanges Round 1: The role of a Domain of Unknown Function protein in chloroplast and mitochondrial retrograde signalling pathways. University of Helsinki (Co-Applicant Dr Saijaliisa Kangasjärvi)

2019: The Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2018-230). Flipping the switch; regulating protein synthesis in response to stress. (Joint-PIs, Dr Bechtold, Dr Prischi), £237,496.

2019: EU (Interreg funding) - Developing hydroponic systems for vegetables sown at high density Hy4Dense (Lead Prof Tracy Lawson), €340,000

2019: British Council (Newton Bhabha PhD fellowship) Characterization of genes identified through activation tagging in Oryza sativa ssp. Indica cv. Samba Mahsuri for abiotic stress tolerance £10,180

2018: BBSRC Newton Fund (BB/R019819/1): Genomics-led improvement of biotic and abiotic stress tolerance in mustard rape for economic and environmental sustainability. India-UK collaboration comprising of seven institutions in the UK and ten institutions in India. (Lead University of York, Prof Bancroft), £196,142.

2016: NERC (NE/P002374/1): Identifying the mechanisms and resource use implications of acclimation to high temperature in marine cyanobacteria. (Co-PI, Lead Prof Richard Geider, Essex) £799,133.

2016: The Leverhulme Trust (RPG-2015-176). Sugar signalling during drought stress. £229,949.

2012: EU consortium - framework 7 (EU KBBE-2011). Integrated approach to studying effects of combined biotic and abiotic stress in crop plants €386,725.

2012: BBSRC - CASE award. Natural variation of water productivity and drought tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana. £92,173.

2012: BBSRC India exchange programme (BB/J02063X/1) Transfer of Regulatory Genes from Arabidopsis to Indian Mustard for Drought Tolerance and Yield Increase, £23,508.

I studied biology at the University of Giessen in Germany, and in 1998 moved to the UK for a PhD project at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. I started my research career characterising PEPTIDE METHIONINE SULFOXIDE REDUCTASE gene family, which reverses methionine oxidation, a post-translational modification, in Arabidopsis. This project started my interest in environmental stress, and I then continued as a postdoc at the University of Essex to investigate drought and heat stress signalling pathways in Arabidopsis and oilseed rape. In 2006 an EMBO short term fellowship led me to the University of Utrecht to investigate the role of HEAT SHOCK TRANSCRIPTION FACTORS in pathogen responses. This was followed by a BBSRC funded project systems biology project (SABR initiative) where I used gene regulatory network modelling to identify novel drought regulatory genes.
I started my academic career as a Lecturer in 2011 at the University of Essex, to building a research portfolio in drought stress and plant water use. My lab has developed a water use proxy trait for the evaluation of natural variation and genetic mapping of drought response and water use traits, which we have since applied to study natural variation in Brassica crops. More recently we have used evolutionary genomics approach to highlight the role of novel genes in the evolution of terrestrialisation, and to determine the modes of evolution of key anatomical features essential for water uptake and transport in plants.
I moved to the Durham University take up a position as Associate Professor of Plant Molecular Biology in March 2022, where I will continue to work on the integration of plant growth and stress signalling pathways in response to drought stress.

Research Interests

My research focuses on understanding plant stress responses with an emphasis on heat and drought. I use a wide range of approaches to study several different aspects of stress responses and signalling pathways at different levels:
• Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation
• Post-translational modifications
• Comparative genomics
• Evolution of genomes and quantitative trait architecture

Esteem Indicators

  • 2022:

    Committee member of the Society of Biochemistry, Research Area III 2018 – 2022
    Member of the Animal, Microbial and Plant Biology Panel, French National Research Council, (ANR) 2017-2019

    : Committee member of the Society of Biochemistry, Research Area III 2018 – 2022
    Member of the Animal, Microbial and Plant Biology Panel, French National Research Council, (ANR) 2017-2019


Journal Article

Supervision students