Thomas is currently working in the Hogenhout group, investigating which key events in the evolutionary history of sap-feeding hemipteran insects (eg. aphids) and insect-vectored plant pathogens have enabled the colonisation of plants.
The John Innes Centre has generated large and high-quality datasets of annotated genomes, transcriptomes, proteomes and resequenced genomes of field-collected populations of these pests. He is conducting comparative genomic and phylogenetic analyses and developing genome mining approaches to identify genes involved in modulating plant processes, plant colonization, and feeding from the phloem versus xylem vasculature. Thomas and his colleagues in the Hogenhout lab hope to uncover how some ‘generalist’ insect pests have evolved to colonise (and suppress the defences of) an extraordinarily diverse range of plant species, whilst other closely related species remain highly specialised.