Nathan Hughes

Postgraduate Researcher Plant Health

Nathan interested in developing new and novel ways of studying biological problems, particularly in plant sciences where either pathogen or environmental stresses are in effect.

Previously he worked at the National Plant Phenomics Centre in Wales, UK, where he focused heavily on detecting drought stress on wheat using micro-CT image analysis.

An essential criteria for multi-cellular life is communication between cells. In plants, small tunnel-like structures known as plasmodesmata span the cell wall of neighbouring cells enabling the movement of small molecules from one cell to another.
Interestingly, plasmodesmata act as regulators. Cells may alter the size of their plasmodesmata channels which can change the amount and size of molecules which can flow between cells.
Many open questions remain on how these changes of plasmodesmata channel size can alter communication and the knock-on effects this may have for a plants. It is well established that plants induce changes to plasmodesmata during development as well as in response to pathogen attack and other stresses. Thus, they are a crucial element of many areas of plant research.
Working closely with the Faulkner group the group apply a combination of physics, mathematics and computer science techniques to build and test models which will allow them to hypothesise how changes to plasmodesmata may impact cell to cell signalling in plants.
In particular, they are currently developing models based on the so-called Narrow-Escape-Problem which will allow the group to examine the relationships between diffusivity of molecules, the size of plasmodesmata and the size and shape of the cell itself.
They are also combing this with graph theory to build large scale simulations.

Selected Publications

See all of Nathan Hughes's publications