My major research interest is to understand the biology of lignification, a process whereby some plant cell walls are waterproofed and rigidified by the phenolic polymer lignin. I study this at biochemical, molecular, and genetic levels. I’m also interested in manipulating the process in crop breeding programmes either conventionally or using biotechnology, to make plant biomass more digestible for agricultural or industrial purposes. A secondary interest is in plant recombination where I wish to discover more about the fundamental biological processes, and also aim to manipulate them to unlock linkage blocks in plant genomes and to achieve gene targeting.
My early years as a lecturer with very young children were challenging, particularly as we had no family nearby, but several things made life easier. We had a daily nanny which was an excellent complete childcare solution, my husband is also an academic with some work flexibility, and my colleagues were supportive. I focussed on the most important jobs (supervising projects, applying for grants, lecturing and writing papers) and refused other responsibilities. Early evenings and weekends were for the family until the children had gone to bed, then I did some more work, if I could stay awake!