Dr Coates is a lecturer in Plant Molecular Genetics in the School of Biosciences at the University of Birmingham. There she researches plant development and evolution and is head of a small group that uses molecular genetics, a range of approaches across the ‘omics, and phenotypic assays to understand genes and their functions, primarily in moss and Arabidopsis, but also in algae.
In particular, Dr Coates is interested in trying to identify the external signals, and the molecular changes within cells, that are needed for organisms to become multicellular. Through her research in a unique combination of plants and algae, Dr Coates’ group is helping to develop a deeper understanding of the evolution of multicellularity in both lineages.
However, Dr Coates has worked part-time since returning from maternity leave in 2008, and her teaching and administrative commitments have heavily impacted on the amount of time she could spend in the lab at a time when her research was making significant developments. This led Dr Coates to apply for a Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship, which relieves scientists from teaching and administrative duties in order to focus on their research for up to a year.
Dr Coates started her award in September 2013 and looks forward to the additional focus she will be able to apply to her research at a crucial stage in its development:
“This is an amazing opportunity for the research in our lab. It is fantastic to be back at the bench with the rest of my team, fully immersed in our research on a day-to-day basis. This Fellowship has already given me time to carry out exciting new experiments, to learn new skills from my PhD student, to draft papers and to cement collaborations with academics in new fields, and (hopefully) with industry too. Importantly, it also gives me the time I need to sit down and really think about science again. That is invaluable.”