< 6th TIPP student retreat
22.07.2015 11:44 Von: Sarah Danes

Controlling alignment in plant cell division

Mayank Chugh on cell patterning in plants and communicating his science

“We find distinct pattern all around us. Be it lines on our palms or be it the patterns on a leaf, or be it the design of fringes during diffraction; everything has an organization or a scheme that specifies those patterns. I am interested in understanding the basic biology of events, processes and phenomenon which govern such idiosyncratic organizations during development, dissecting the mechanisms and factors which initiate, create and maintain the patterns once they are formed”. Mayank Chugh explains the fascination that led to his PhD research on positioning of the cell division plane during plant mitosis. The regular patterning of plant cells, for example in a root tip, depends on accurate alignment of this plane each time a parent cell separates into two daughters. But how is it controlled?


Mayank, who joined the lab of Erik Schäffer at the Center for Plant Molecular Biology (ZMBP) in September 2014, is investigating the role of two kinesin 12 motor proteins, POK1 and POK2, in plant mitosis and cytokinesis. Mayank brought to the project strong molecular biology skills acquired during his 5-year BSc/MSc course in Biology at the IISER Mohali, India. However the enormous sizes of the POK1 and POK2 proteins - 234kDa and 315kDa respectively – requires deployment of some special techniques, and to this end Mayank attended a recombineering course at the TU Dresden in May 2015. Beyond this, Mayank is learning a range of biophysical approaches in the Schäffer lab, using single molecule techniques such as optical tweezers, total internal reflection microscopy (TIRF) and light sheet microscopy to investigate the function of POK1 and 2.


Beyond his research interests Mayank is enthusiastic about the communication of science, leading to his selection as one of only 20 young researchers at a prestigious “Communicating Your Science” workshop run from April 22-24, 2015 by the Genetics Society, U.K. One of the workshop tasks was to produce a podcast for the “Naked Scientists” series – you can hear the results here. Mayank’s talent for communication was highlighted again in July, when he won the poster prize at the TIPP15 student retreat. Mayank is depicted here presenting his winning poster to student colleagues.