2022 Cell President Medallist

Katherine Helliwell

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Katherine is an algal biologist interested in understanding how biotic and abiotic factors control the growth, productivity and evolution of single celled photosynthetic microbes, which critically underpin aquatic ecosystems. After completing her BSc in Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol, Katherine undertook a PhD and postdoc in Professor Alison Smith’s group in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge. During this time, she investigated the role of organic micronutrients (vitamins) in governing interactions between algae and bacteria, and her work brought new insights into our understanding of microbial vitamin metabolism. In 2015, Katherine joined Professor Colin Brownlee’s research group at the Marine Biological Association (MBA) in Plymouth, UK, investigating algal signalling mechanisms. This work led to the identification of a novel class of ion channels that mediate rapid signalling processes in marine diatoms.

Katherine is now a NERC Independent Research Fellow and holds a joint Senior research fellowship between the University of Exeter and the MBA. A key motivation for her research group is elucidating the mechanisms that control the interactions of algae with their environment. In particular, she is interested in understanding algal nutrient sensing and signalling pathways. Another major focus is examining the biotic interactions of algae with other planktonic microbes in the ocean, how these interactions evolve, and the metabolic processes that govern them.