8th May 2014

Malcolm Bennett, Professor of Plant Science at the University of Nottingham [and GARNet committee member!] has been elected as a member of EMBO (The European Molecular Biology Organization). He is one of 106 newly-elected members of this organisation which promotes excellence in the life sciences.

Professor Bennett said: “It is a great honour to have been elected as a member of EMBO and help shape the future of molecular bioscience research across Europe.”

The EMBO Membership currently comprises more than 1600 life scientists that supports researchers at all stages of their careers, stimulate the exchange of scientific information, and help build a European research environment where scientists can achieve their best work.

His election recognises Professor Bennett’s contribution to revealing the mechanisms that control root growth and development in plants. Many of the genes and signals that regulate key root traits such as angle, depth and branching have been identified in either his group or in collaboration with other European labs using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. This pioneering work has been performed at the Centre for Plant Integrative Biology (CPIB), a world-renowned interdisciplinary research centre in systems biology at the University of Nottingham, where Professor Bennett currently serves as its Director.

Efforts are underway at CPIB to use the knowledge generated by Professor Bennett’s team and their collaborators to develop new varieties of crops. Food security represents a pressing global issue. Crop production has to double by 2050 to keep pace with global population growth. This target is even more challenging given the impact of climate change on water availability and the drive to reduce fertilizer inputs to make agriculture more environmentally sustainable. Improving the water and nutrient uptake efficiency of plants would help to increase yields. Roots play a key role controlling water and nutrient uptake efficiency. Understanding the genes and other signals that control root development is therefore critical to developing more sustainable crops.

In the last 5 years he has led efforts at CPIB to ‘uncover the hidden half’ and image roots growing in soil. Recent BBSRC Professorial Research Fellowship (2010) and ERC Advanced Investigator (2012) awards have made it possible to build a state-of-the-art X-ray CT imaging facility with a team of over 40 researchers spanning plant, soil, mathematical and computer sciences. His current research focuses on discovering novel molecular mechanisms controlling root adaptive responses to environmental signals like nutrients or water in order to improve crop performance. In 2013, his efforts to re-engineer root architecture were recognised with a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award.

The most recent scientists to join the EMBO membership come from 17 different countries and include 21 female scientists. EMBO Members make invaluable contributions to the organization by providing suggestions and feedback on the activities of EMBO. They serve on selection committees for EMBO programmes and mentor young scientists. Their input has helped to promote excellence in life sciences since 1964.


Press release from the University of Nottingham: