NIAB’s Dr Nichola Hawkins awarded a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship

14 Feb 2022
Dr Nichola Hawkins
Dr Nichola Hawkins, currently a Postdoctoral Researcher in plant pathology at NIAB, has been awarded a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship, a highly competitive award which funds an independent research project for three years.

Nichola’s research looks at the fundamental evolutionary biology behind the development of fungicide resistance and other disease control breakdown in plant pathogens such as Septoria.

In her new project, she will look at how resistant mutants evolve in the lab in order to generate more accurate resistance risk assessments, to better predict resistance against future modes of action (chemical, biological or genetic) before control failure occurs in the field, to get one step ahead of ever-evolving pathogens.

She will also investigate how the principles of resistance evolution apply beyond chemical pesticides, for example to biological control and to RNAi. As sustainability concerns lead the agricultural industry to look increasingly at non-chemical forms of crop protection, these new control measures must also be used in an evolutionarily sustainable way. By moving from a reactive to a predictive approach to resistance against new crop protection measures, appropriate resistance management guidelines can be put in place from the first time a new measure is used, in order to build crop protection strategies that are both sustainable and durable.

Richard Harrison, Director of Cambridge Crop Science at NIAB, commented:

“The awarding of the Discovery Fellowship is exciting news for both Nichola and NIAB. It shows that her science is of the highest quality, and is being recognised as such with this award. It is also a reflection of how excellence in discovery science and in impact can go hand in hand and could make a real difference for both the agricultural industry and wider society. This research complements our other work in enabling sustainable food production, and addresses two of agriculture’s major challenges, in terms of remaining productive while reducing its environmental impact.’

Speaking about her award Nichola said:

“I am delighted that the BBSRC Discovery Fellowship will enable me to develop this fascinating and vitally important research area, simultaneously tackling fundamental questions in evolutionary biology and one of the major challenges in food security. The fellowship award reflects not only my own work, but the incredible support and expertise from NIAB, and the importance of agricultural science in the UK and globally.”