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Ottoline Leyser

Ottoline Leyser

Dame Ottoline Leyser DBE FRS


Elected: 2007






Ottoline Leyser aims to understand how plants adjust their growth and development to suit the environmental conditions in which they are growing. In particular, she is studying how plants change the number of shoot branches they produce depending on factors such as nutrient supply and damage to the main shoot. She is particularly interested in the roles and mechanisms of action of plant hormones such as auxin.

One of her discoveries — the auxin receptor — has helped to explain how hormone signals shape the response of a plant to its environment. She began studying the growth of shoots in the 1980s in Arabidopsis, which at the time was an emerging model for plant biology.

Ottoline was awarded a CBE in 2009 in recognition of her pioneering work in plant science. In parallel to her research, and in conjunction with the Royal Society, she collated Mothers in Science: 64 Ways to Have it All (PDF), a book that highlights how female scientists have successfully combined parenting with their research careers.

Interest and expertise

Subject groups

  • Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology
    • Developmental biology


Plant growth and development, Plant hormones, Plant genetics


  • Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award and Lecture

    Used her award to publish a book of the time lines of 64 female scientists entitled 'Mothers in Science: 64 ways to have it all'.

  • Rutherford Memorial Lecture

    Thinking like a vegetable: how plants decide what to do

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