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Emmy Noether Fellow is doing research at Jacobs University Bremen


September 14, 2018

With the Emmy Noether Program of the German Research Foundation (DFG) outstanding young scientists can qualify for a university professorship within six years. As part of this program, developmental biologist and plant geneticist Dr. Amal J. Johnston, moved from Heidelberg University to Jacobs University with his research group. "With its diversity of staff and students, Jacobs University provides an optimal environment to further our international research portfolio," says Johnston.

Dr. Johnston has worked in leading research institutions in Asia, Australia and Europe, including the University of Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics & Crop Plant Research (IPK). In recognition of his contributions to biotechnology, he was awarded Alumnus of the Year in 2013 by the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia. Short-term research stays gave him the opportunity to work abroad as a Humboldt fellow at the National Institute for Basic Biology in Japan and the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Amal J. Johnston

His current team, which has moved along with Dr. Johnston from Heidelberg to Bremen-North, consists of a research associate and two PhD students. The researchers are focusing on genetics and development of the germline, i.e. the transition of somatic or vegetative cells towards reproductive determination. The germline produces female and male reproductive cells (gametes) that form a zygote (and then an embryo) upon fertilization. In plants, the embryos are contained within the seed, one of the major sources of human nutrition. One area of their research is the study of parthenogenesis, a form of asexual reproduction that yields clonal seeds.

A new shift in his research focus, dissecting the evolutionary basis of germline development, has brought Dr. Johnston to Jacobs University. Analyzing molecular mechanisms behind the sexual and asexual developmental processes is a central goal of his laboratory. His research also plays a major role in understanding molecular mechanisms underlying cellular fate, cancer as well as in agricultural applications. The scientists are also involved in teaching. "We are looking forward to teach and train students from diverse nations around the world," emphasizes Johnston.