Faces of Plant Cell Biology: Prof Chris Hawes

For the new year I have started a new series called “Faces of Plant Cell Biology”. In this series I am going to post answers of plant cell biologists at all stages of their career to a set of five questions. For obvious reasons I expect this to at first feature researchers which I know quite well, simply because I hope that they will be more willing to complete the questionnaire! However, by no means this should indicate an order of importance and I am very keen to feature as many researchers as possible. If you are a plant cell biologist and would like to to see your answers here, please email me at anne@plantcellbiology.com.

Today’s questionnaire has been completed by Prof. Chris Hawes from Oxford Brookes University, who was my PhD supervisor and has been my boss for the last years. He is an internationally renowned expert in “Golgiology” and I love working with him (and I am not only saying this because he is going to read the post later)!

1) What is your research about?

I lead a team looking into the organisation and functioning of the higher plant secretory pathway.  That is the series of intercellular membrane bounded compartments that are responsible for the production of proteins, lipids and carbohydrates that are secreted to storage compartments in the cell or outside the cell. This is where most of our food it produced.  We specialise in live cell imaging and electron microscopy of cells. Currently we are looking at the way the first compartment in the pathway, the endoplasmic reticulum, forms a geometrical network at the cortex of the cell and how it anchors the second compartment, the membrane stacks of the Golgi apparatus, to its surface.

2) What is the best and the worst thing about your work?

Undoubtedly the best aspect of my work is the interaction with different scientists from different labs. all over the world and also working with such great postdocs. and PhD students in my lab. Occasionally I get to work on the microscopes which is great fun. The worst aspect is University administration which over the years has got more and more bureaucratic along with the continual pressure in having to obtain funding through submission of numerous research grant applications.

3) How did you become a plant scientist?

I always wanted to work on plants and was lucky enough to do a botany A level at secondary school. I went on to take botany at university and got hooked on microscopy during my honours project on fungal spore production.  This led to a postdoc. at Oxford University and the rest is history. Non of it was really planned.

4) What do you do to get your mind off work?

If you are into research you cannot get you mind off work – ideas can come at any time day or night.  Relaxation is badminton, the garden and a large (very) black hairy dog!

5) What advice would you give to students?
Just do what you like and what interests you and ignore all of those who these days carp on and on about University being the springboard to your career, just get the most out of the experience and grab opportunities as they arise.  You will never know where life takes you, that’s the fun of it.



To find out more about Prof Hawes’ research,

visit http://www.brookes.ac.uk/plant_endomembrane.





The video shows Golgi bodies (magenta) and the endoplasmic reticulum (green) labelled with fluorescent proteins in a transgenic Arabidopsis thaliana leaf cell.


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