Chrysi Sergaki

University of Warwick


Determination of plant root – microbe interactions



PhD Summary

The root microbiota, defined as the diverse microbial communities in and around plant roots, can significantly influence plant development and stress tolerance. However, the mechanisms affecting root microbiota composition and especially the underlying communication between microbes and between plants and microbes are largely unknown. My study is focused on Piriformospora indica, a mutualistic fungal root endophyte that improves plant performance under stress and increases resistance to diseases. Using P. indica, my aim is to understand the effects of plant and/or microbe-derived communication patterns on the composition of Arabidopsis thaliana rhizobiome.

What inspires you?

Since I was a child I was fascinated by nature, it seemed like magic to me! When I started studying biology at university I realised that nature has so many secrets to reveal. I believe that research can help us understand the world around us and allow/encourage us to use the environment sensibly, sustainably and to its maximum potential.

Previous Activity

I studied biology at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in Greece. In Greece, I did my dissertation and my lab placement on food quality and chemistry of natural products, including essential oils. I also completed a six month research project on chromatin remodelling in Vardis Ntoukakis group at University of Warwick during an Erasmus project, followed by a research assistant job in Miriam Gifford’s group at the same university. Right after I enrolled for a summer school in Biology at the University of Münster (Germany).

Why did you choose Docotoral Research?

I was always concerned about the way we are using and treating nature. I believe that nature has a lot to offer to us and there are ways to use it sensibly and not abusing it. At the university, I discovered through various lab placements that I love doing research. As a PhD student, I am passionate about my research and I know deeply that this is the career I always wanted to follow. I am happy that I have the opportunity to find ways to do research while also raising awareness around me about research on plants.

Why did you choose a CENTA Studentship?

CENTA gives the incredible opportunity to meet people from different areas of environmental sciences, get to know their research topics and learn back how to communicate our science. It provides a broad variety of trainings that will give us great tools for the future but also ideas and inspiration for our work and career.

What are your future plans

CENTA gives an outstanding toolbox for a future career – whatever I choose to do. Through the trainings, I am gaining a very broad understanding of sciences and I am learning to combine different fields together in order to reach a higher impact research. In the future, I would like find environmental and sustainable ways to face the big agricultural challenges. I am particularly interested in using nature to its maximum potential. I believe that nature has a huge variety of natural ‘weapons’ that can help us face those challenges in a sustainable way, by using nature’s power instead of harming it. The microbes that live in the soil, in and around the plant root system have the ability to change the growth of the plant but also the tolerance against stresses and diseases. We need to understand how microbes are achieving that and how we can use them more broadly and efficiently in agriculture. This is my passion and I would like to pursue a research career based on this idea.