Lab News


Gatsby Plant Science Summer School, Hawkshill, York, 2nd-4th July 2018

Phil will speak and take part in this summer school for undergraduates interested in plant sciences.

 Past events

Congratulations to Vinoy who has been selected as an MPLS BAME – Beyond Boundaries Project role model

This science-inspired art initiative will see secondary school students interpreting a research project in a piece of art work – drawing, painting or even sculpture. We are looking forward to seeing the outcomes.

Lecture at Cirencester Science and Technology Society, Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, 9th May 2018, 7.30pm

Phil will give a lecture entitled ‘Nitrogen and humanity – a permanent crisis

Spring 2018 – Welcome to new staff and visitors!

 Tim Haskett joins the SynSym project from March 2018.


IUNFC students Chalasani Danteswari from University of Hyderabad and Nagvanti Atoliya from the India Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal are visiting the Poole Lab and working with Bea, April -June 2018 to examine pigeonpea-nodulating rhizobia.


Biosciences DTP student Riccardo Soldan is working in the Poole Lab for his rotation project, April-July 2018. He is studying the microbiomes of Arabidopsis.


Undergraduates Pandora Dewan, Clare Cocker and Oliver Taylor are working with Laura, Carmen and Vinoy, respectively, for their second-year research projects.


Anna Martyn from xx  is spending 6 mths working with Andrzej on plant microbiomes. Beatrice Senatori from the University of Florence  is spending 6 mths working with Vinoy on bacterial attachment to plant roots.



Zoological Society of London, Huxley Lecture Theatre, Main Meeting Rooms, ZSL London Zoo, 13th March 2018, 6pm

Phil will give a talk in the event Ecosystems under the microscope: why microbes matter for conservation.

Super Science Saturday, Oxford Natural History Museum, Parks Road, Oxford, 10th March 2018

Sam and Hayley will take part in this exciting activity by sharing the joy of unearthing nitrogen-fixing nodules from legume roots.

SRUK-Oxford on Thursday 1st March 2018

Beatriz will give a talk on science from her perspective.

Thatcher Development Programme’s Foundation Day Panel Discussion, ‘Climate Change: Approaches and Innovations for the Future’ Tuesday 27th February, Somerville College, Oxford

Phil took part in this discussion on Climate Change before the Foundation Day Dinner at Somerville College, Oxford.

2nd Plant Microbiome Symposium, Barbizon Palace Hotel, Amsterdam, the Netherlands 19th-21st Feb 2018

Phil, Jack and Andrzej attended this meeting.

  • Andrzej’s poster was entitled “The plant microbiome is dependent on soil type, soil fraction and the common symbiotic pathway

Interactive Q&A session with school students in Spain, Feb 2018

Carmen, direct from her bench in Oxford via Skype, spent a happy hour answering questions from 16-17 year olds in IES Santo Reino, Spain. This session followed her presentation on following her talk about Nitrogen-fixing Bacteria  and was to promote interest in science, research and Women in Science.

Department of Biology, University of York on 13th February 2018

Phil gave a seminar entitled ‘Metabolic transitions of rhizobia and application to engineering N-fixation in cereals‘ in the Plant Biology seminar series.

Joint Meeting of  NUCLEUS and UBNFC VJCs, Florianapolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil 22nd Nov 2017

As part of UBNFC, Phil attended this meeting.


UBNFC Annual Meeting, Florianapolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil 23-24th Nov 2017

Phil and Marta attended this annual meeting.

Congratulations to Josh on submitting his DPhil thesis! Sept. 2017

20th International Congress on Nitrogen Fixation (ICNF), Granada, Spain 3rd-7th Sept. 2017

Annet gave a talk entitled ‘Computing plants: how pea plants allocate resources among multiple rhizobial strains’

Carmen gave a talk entitled ‘Regulatory cross-talk by the phosphotransferase systems in R. leguminosarum’

Marcela gave a talk entitled ‘High-throughput tool to identify competitive rhizobial strains’

Phil gave a keynote lecture entitled ‘What makes a bacteroid?’

Andrzej, Barney, Bea, Hayley, Jack, Josh, Kyle, Nick, Paul, Rachel and Vinoy had posters (see here for details).

VI Annual Meeting of the Plant Genetic and Biotechnology Network, Italy 20th-23rd June 2017

Phil gave a talk entitled ‘Root microbiota in plant productivity’ at this graduate school.

Imperial College London, Silwood Park, 22nd June 2017

In the Ecology and Evolution Seminar Series, Bea gave a seminar entitled ‘From population genomics to synthetic communities in the Rhizobium – Legume system’

Visitors Spring-Summer 2017

We welcome Eloïne Bestion (Élève Ingénieure Agronome) from ENSAT (Ecole Nationale Superieure Agronomique de Toulouse), France for a placement from June until the end of August 2017. Eloïne will be working on analysis of microbiomes from the rhizosphere.


As part of the IUNFC exchange programme, PhD student Sohini Guha from the University of Calcutta will be working in the Poole Lab from April-Aug 2017.


From April 2017 the Poole Lab is hosting Paul Rutten from the Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership for his rotation project.


Undergraduates Thomas Lewin, Ben Foster and Yann Newby will be doing their six-week  projects in the Poole Lab starting in May 2017.

Poole Lab Dinner, Somerville College 15th June 2017

Great to see everyone dressed up for dinner!

ASM Microbe 2017, New Orleans, USA, June 2017


Phil gave a talk entitled ‘ Role of Root Microbiota in Plant Productivity‘ in the session Microbes and Plants: From Leaf to Root.

The Queen’s College Symposium, June 2017


Carmen gave a talk entitled ‘Life underground: The basis and future of agriculture’

University of Middlesex, Environmental Sciences Lecture Series, April 2017.


Barney gave a talk entitled ‘Engineering trans-kingdom signalling to govern traits in the plant rhizosphere’


eps_logoExperimental Plant Sciences (EPS) Meeting, Lunteren, The Netherlands, April 2017

Phil was a speaker at this Graduate School EPS Training Programme event.


Congratulations to Jack who has been accepted onto NERC Valuing Nature Business Impact School 6th-9th March 2017 in London.

II Semana Bioengenharia, Instuto Superior Técnico, Lison, Portugal, 7th March 2017

Phil gave a seminar entitled ‘How plants select the rhizosphere microbiome and, in turn, how microbes alter plant growth’


UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 11th Feb 2017

Rhizosphere Lab scientists include women from all over the world (below), who are proud to support and celebrate UN International Day of Women and Girls in Science, 2017.


L to R: Marcela (Mexico), Carmen (Spain), Rachel (UK), Lily (China), Hayley (UK), Alison (UK), Laura (UK), Rona (UK) and Bea (Spain).

logoCongratulations to Barney who has recently been made a JRF at Wolfson College.

phil_virtualwheatCrop Systems Engineering Seminar Series, University of Southampton, 10th Feb 2017

Phil gave a seminar entitled ‘Root colonisation and engineering selection of microbes’.

Oxford University Botanic Garden – Out of Hours Plant Science Masterclass Series. March and April 2017 at the Museum of Natural History

oxford-botanic-gardensJosh and Nick are involved in running this masterclass for young talented biologists, encouraging them to think of plant science as an important and interesting area, and one that would allow them to tackle global challenges in the future.


Contribution to UK Parliament, Jan 2017 parliament-uk-logo

Izzy’s My Science Inquiry to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee proposing an inquiry into how the UK can utilise biological solutions to the global nitrogen crisis was selected for publication.

On 24th Jan 2017 Phil did a FacebookLIVE event via OxfordSparkscatch up with Phil’s talk:philfacebooklive

Global Pulse Day, 19th Jan 2017
The bring-and-share Pulse Lunch was enjoyed by members of the Plant Science Dept.
Delicious tastes on offer ranged from curries, dips and salads to black bean chocolate muffins and chickpea blondies.


Rothamsted Open Innovation Forum, 18th-20th Jan 2017main_logo

Jack and Nick attended this inspiring event.

Back2Roots 1st Annual Meeting, Wageningen, Holland, 12th-13th Jan 2017

Phil will give a talk at the Back2Roots 1st Annual Meeting in Wageningen.




Congratulations to Izzy who had her PhD viva on 5th Jan 2017 – well done Dr Webb!

Visitors – Winter/Spring 2017

bio_dtp_logo_smallFrom January the Poole Lab is delighted to be hosting Sam Aroney and Hayley Knights on a 12 week rotation in the first year of their DPhil studies. In addition, Rona Costello and Laura Clark will be working with Dr Lindsay Turnbull on rotation projects joint with the Poole Lab.

Sam, Hayley, Rona and Laura are students on the Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership and will be working on aspects of nitrogen fixation.

research_logoInnovative Crop Protection for the 21st Century Food Security, 13th-14th Dec. 2016, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel.

Phil and Andrzej attended this conference. Phil gave a talk entitled ‘Root colonisation and community selection’.

Launch of the India UK Nitrogen Fixation Centre (IUNFC), 6-7th Oct. 2016 in Bhopal, India.iunfc_logo_final Phil, Vinoy, Andrzej, Bea and Alison travelled to India for the launch and IUNFC project planning meeting.

ceplasXXth Symposium Plant Biology, 27th-28th Sept. 2016 Botanical Institute, University of Cologne, Germany.

Phil will give a talk entitled ‘Plant control of the rhizosphere microbiome’

Michaelmas 2016, Phenotype5a11a2_3726d1e2e4f945978ec38c5bb1e66029

Rachel has written an article ‘ A problem for the 21st Century: tackling the Nitrogen Crisis‘ published in this term’s Phenotype.


Inaugural Poole Lab retreat,  Sept. 2016
We spent two nights in rural Wiltshire which provided an opportunity for presentations, in-depth project discussions, walking, eating and other activities. We returned focused on our projects and refreshed!

ENFC-2016 25th-28th Aug. 2016, Budapest, Hungary. Several members of the group attended this conference to give talks and present posters.

  • Barney gave a talk: Discovery of a novel rhizopine synthesis pathway paves the way for synthetic symbioses and nitrogen fixing cereal crops’
  • Marcela had a short oral presentation and poster: Rhizobial competition: getting to the root of the problem’
  • Carmen had a short oral presentation and poster:  Regulation of bacterial metabolism by the phosphotransferase system (PTSNtr)’
  • Rachel had a short oral presentation and poster: Insertion Sequencing in Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae 3841′
  • Annet had a short oral presentation and poster:  ‘Policing the gate: can pea plants stop rhizobial cheats from entering?’
  • Izzy had a poster: ‘Using Raman microscopy to investigate nitrogen fixation mutants of Rhizobium leguminosarum
  • Alison had a poster: Comparison of Rhizobium leguminosarum determinate and indeterminate nodules on legumes by RNA-Seq analysis’

EMBO conference: The nitrogen nutrition of plants, 22nd-26th August, Montpellier, France.


Phil gave a talk in PlaNNet coordination Network session sponsored by NSF.

Visitors – Spring/Summer 2016

bio_dtp_logo_smallFrom April, the Poole Lab was delighted to host Jack Parsons on a 12 week rotation in the first year of his DPhil. Jack is a student on the Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership.

banner03During Trinity term 2016 we welcomed undergraduates doing their projects in the Poole Lab; Freya Easton and Sophie Richards worked with Vinoy, Beatrice Egid worked with Carmen. Megan Griffiths and Connor Hope worked with Annet and Marcela.

Society for Applied Microbiology, Summer Conference 2016 – Microbial interactions in the environment, 2nd-4th July 2016, Edinburgh.

Andrzej gave a talk entitled ‘Rhizosphere microbiology and plant health’.

Kyle_talkGrowing Plants on Mars, Sat 25th June 2016, Oxford Town Hall.
Kyle gave a presentation describing the science behind growing plants in space. Read more…


Martian Crops by Kyle Grant, BANG! Trinity 2016
The red planet goes green. Growing plants in space. Read about the advances being made by NASA and Kyle’s contribution.

Lab formal dinner at Balliol College, Mon 23rd May 2016.


Fascination of Plants Day, Harcourt Arboretum, Oxfordshire, May 14th 2016. Build your own terrarium and other activities in beautiful surroundings. As part of the Dept. of Plant Sciences team, Kyle, Izzy and Francesco were on hand to help the visitors and answer any questions.


Visit to a London Primary School, April 2016



Izzy visited Griffin Primary School in Wandsworth to help out with a Year 1 field trip to Larkhall Park.


cropped-cropped-sb-ukpsf-bilogo-new1UK PlantSci 2016, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK 11-12th April 2016

Phil presented the keynote lecture entitled ‘ The plant microbiome and the importance of the rhizosphere to plant growth and resilience’.

Innovation Match MX 2015-2016, First International Forum of Mexican Talent, Guadalajara, Mexico, 6th-8th April 2016

Congratulations to Marcela who has been selected to give a talk ‘Beating rhizobial ineffectiveness’.

Visitors – Winter/Spring 2016

bio_dtp_logo_smallFrom January the Poole Lab is delighted to be hosting Nick Crang on a 12 week rotation in the first year of his DPhil. Nick is a student on the Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership and will be working on oxygen regulation of nitrogen fixation.

OxFEST Annual Conference., Oxford, 5th March 2016

Khushboo presented a poster ‘Metabolic Flux analysis of nitrogen-fixing bacteria’ 

1st Plant Microbiome Symposium, Jaguariuna, Brazil, 22nd-24th February 2016

Phil gave a talk entitled ‘Stability and succession of the rhizosphere microbiota depends on plant type and soil composition’.

Andrzej gave a talk entitled ‘Wheat Progenitors’ Microbiome’

Sherborne Science Cafe

Sherborne Science Cafe, Dorset, 7.30pm, 27th January 2016

Phil gave a talk ‘Something in the air’.

Funding announcements

IUNFC_logo_finalWe are delighted to announce that our proposal for the India-UK Nitrogen Fixation Centre (IUNFC) has been funded as part of 10M UK-India Virtual Joint Centres in Agricultural Nitrogen. Funded through partnership of BBSRC with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Department of Biotechnology India (DBT), this is one of four VJCs funded by this initiative. Their aim is to develop centres performing innovative research and delivering training, through collaboration between UK and Indian scientists.

From announcement of the award on the BBSRC website:

India-UK Nitrogen Fixation Centre (IUNFC) – Professor Philip Poole, University of Oxford working with Dr D.L.N Rao, ICAR Indian Institute of Soil Science and researchers at the John Innes Centre, University of Baroda, University of Calcutta, University of Hyderabad, ICAR India Agricultural Research Institute and The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi.
This Virtual Joint Centre aims to tackle problems of food security, environmental and economic challenges of crop production and soil improvement in India through world class fundamental and applied research on biological nitrogen fixation (BNF). In the short/medium term, this knowledge will lead to changes in agricultural practices in India, bringing economic, environmental and social benefits. In the longer term, it will provide a platform to engineer nitrogen fixation in cereal crops.

Congratulations !

Congratulations to Annet Westhoek who won Oxford’s DTP Graduate Prize in Nov 2015 for her work in the past year. Well done!

Research scientist stars in TV documentary, Nov 2015

MXMMADRILEÑOS POR EL MUNDO is an award-winning television program  on Telemadrid (Madrid’s public official TV network) broadcast since 2007. The show is one of the Network’s most watched programmes.

Carmen_deptMXM’s reporter and cameraman travel all around the world visiting and interviewing people from Madrid who live abroad. While learning more about their lives and their experiences they also report on each city’s main tourist attractions. A programme made in Oct 2015 features Carmen and her life here in Oxford, including the Plant Sciences Dept., the Herbarium and other tourist attractions. See the trailer for the programme which will be broadcast on 24th Nov. 2015. Check out the MXM website for further details.

The Gairdner Foundation & University of Calgary Symposium on the Microbiome, University of Calgary – Cumming School of Medicine, Canada, 10th November 2015

Phil’s seminar is entitled ‘Plant selection of the rhizosphere microbiome’. 

At the end of October we were sorry to say good-bye to visitor Ben Perry from University of Regina, Canada. Before he left, the Poole Lab went for a formal dinner at Balliol College.

Balliol_at table_crop_Oct2015

crestUniversity of Wisconsin-Madison, Oct 2015

Phil visited Jean-Michel Ané in Madison and gave a seminar entitled ‘Differentiation of rhizobia into nitrogen-fixing bacteroids’ in the Division of Bacteriology, Distinguished Lectures in Microbiology series on 15th Oct 2015.

Seminars in Frontiers on Genomics, Centro de Ciencias Genomicas (CCG) of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Mexico, 13th Oct 2015


Phil gave a talk entitled ‘Transition of Rhizobium from free-living organism to ammoniaplast’. While the talk was given at UNAM Campus in Cuernavaca, it was broadcast live to participating institutions around Mexico.

During Phil’s visit to CCG he spent a day with undergraduates on the Program in Genomic Sciences giving two additional seminars and holding one-to-one discussions with students.

ICNF_logoICNF 2015, Asilomar, California, USA, 4th-9th October 2015

Phil gave a talk entitled ‘Energisation and redox balance in nitrogen-fixing bacteroids’.
Izzy presented a poster; ‘Understanding the role of FixABCX in symbiotic nitrogen fixation’.

Tackling the nitrogen crisis; what are the solutions? Oxford Martin School, Oxford, 18th Sept 2015

Phil and Alison organised this symposium to discuss biological nitrogen fixation together with the broader problems of nitrogen in the environment, agricultural policy, food consumption and social issues, in the context of finding solutions.


American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), Plant Biology 2015, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, 26th-30th July 2015


Phil gave a talk entitled ‘Plant Control of the Microbiome’ in the  session; Interactions in the Rhizosphere and the Root Microbiome.

Ratan Tata visits Poole Lab, 24th June 2015


Photos courtesy of OICSD

Vinoy was delighted to be able to show Ratan Tata around the Poole Lab and to tell him about our latest research. Mr Tata was visiting Oxford as a guest of Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development (OICSD) and Somerville College.


Rhizosphere4, Maastricht, The Netherlands, 21st-25th June 2015
Rhizo4Andrzej gave a talk entitled High-throughput detection of plant pathogens using next generation sequencing’. Posters were presented by Josh (Dissecting root secretion using novel lux biosensors’), Vinoy (EcfE, a master regulator of pea root attachment and colonization of Rhizobium leguminosarum bv viciae 3841′) and Annet (Modelling resource allocation in the legume – rhizobium symbiosis’).

Bath Science Café, Raven Pub, Bath, 8th June 2015 

Phil gave a presentation; ‘Something in the air; the nitrogen crisis’. For more details see

Canadian Society of Microbiologists (CSM) 65th Annual Conference, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, 15th-18th June 2015

Phil gave a talk at this meeting in the session; The Rhizosphere Microbiome of Agricultural Crops.csm

Norwich Research Park DTP Summer Conference, Assembly Rooms, Norwich, 18th June 2015

NRP_DTPlogoIzzy presented a poster on her research; Understanding the role of FixABCX in symbiotic nitrogen fixation’. As a member of an invited panel she also took part in a discussion about her 3 month-long internship, undertaken as part of her PhD studentship.

Fascination of Plants Day, University of Oxford, Harcourt Arboretum, 16th May 2015

Barney, Francesco, Izzy and Khushboo hosted a great stand showing visitors Amazing Adaptations as part of Fascination of Plants, UK. The event was featured in the Oxford Times – the quote about plants and bacteria must have been referring to the Poole Lab display!

Fascination of plants_2

Future of Food, Food Security Forum, Annual Conference 2015, Oxford, 2nd May 2015


At the conference Culture, Food, & the Environment: New Perspectives on Food Sovereignty and Security Marcela presented a poster entitled ‘Beating rhizobial ineffectiveness’.

The Society for General Microbiology Annual Conference 2015; The Microbiome, Birmingham, 30th March-2nd April 2015


Phil gave a talk entitled ‘Comparative metatranscriptomics reveals kingdom level changes in the rhizosphere microbiome of plants’.

Bacterial Electron Transfer Processes and their Regulation, Vimeiro, Portugal, 15th-18th March 2015


efb-logo-whiteIzzy received a FEMS travel grant to attend the conference, Bacterial Electron Transfer Processes and their Regulation and gave an oral presentation of her work.

Wow!How? Family Science Fair, 14th March 2015

???????????????????????????????Annet participated in Wow!How? held at the Museum of Natural History and the Pitt Rivers museum and featuring over 30 hands-on activities to explore. This free fun day is part of  Oxfordshire Science Festival.


Microbiomes and Metagenomics, The Shard, shardLondon, 3rd-4th March 2015

At this meeting organised by ComMet, Phil gave the keynote lecture ‘Control of the plant microbiome’.

Outreach at Somerville College, 21st February 2015

Somerville crestBarney, Carmen and Phil were involved in an outreach activity to local prospective biology/biochemistry undergraduates. The school pupils heard about nitrogen fixation and considered ways to engineer improvements to the process.

Early Career Researcher Workshop on Plant-Microbe Interactions, Bangkok, Thailand, 16th-19th February 2015

newton-fund-master-rgb-small_630x354_300pxinAndrzej was selected for this workshop funded under the Researcher Links scheme offered within the Newton Fund, the British Council and the Thailand Research Fund.

Phil visits Murdoch University, Western Australia as Sir Walter Murdoch visiting fellow, December 2014

photoB_cropped_Phil at Murdoch copy

Murdoch crest

Phil with Dr Jason Terpolilli, of the Centre for Rhizobium Studies (CRS), Murdoch University.

Lab meal, October 2014


BASF Symposium ‘Unlocking Yield Potential in Soil’, Deidesheim, Germany, 7th-9th October 2014

Andrzej gave a talk at this meeting.

ENFC- 2014, Tenerife, Spain, 7th-10th Sept 2014general-floating-menu-logo-regular

Alison, Andrzej, Barney, Carmen, Izzy, Phil & Vinoy attended this conference. See posters presented.

Society for General Microbiology meeting, ‘Emerging Challenges and Opportunities in Soil Microbiology’, Loughborough, 1st-2nd September 2014

sgm-logoAndrzej gave a talk at this meeting.

Discover Plants, Oxford Botanic Gardens, March 2014

Josh was involved in sessions for primary school pupils.

Science week, March 2014

Josh was involved with demonstrations of science at Wow!How? Family Science Fair, 15th March 2014 held at the Museum of Natural History, Oxford.


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