Position: PhD Student, MPG
Micha Wijesingha Ahchige is a PhD student at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam Germany in the group of Professor Alisdair Fernie, which focuses on plant central metabolism. In his PhD project he is investigating the genetic basis for trait canalization with respect to tomato fruit metabolism and yield. Beyond the experience from the current project on metabolomics, genetics and gene-editing in plant species, his previous experience also includes plant-microbe interactions. Therefore, his research interest spans from plant metabolism to synthetic biology and plant breeding. In the frame of his secondment to the group of Professor Nicola Illing at the University of Cape Town, he analyzed RNAseq data from a tomato mutant, displaying a decanalized yield phenotype in response to drought conditions. He was trained by Dr. Rafe Lyall in RNAseq analysis in R and together they built a pipeline to perform gene ontology and gene set enrichment analysis to gain insight into the mutant physiology. Besides this bioinformatical work, Mr. Ahchige shared his experience in construct cloning, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene-editing and transformant screening in tomato, which led to fruitful discussions about the applicability of tissue culture and transformation techniques in Xerophyta species. It was concluded that while generation of stable Xerophyta transformants is not yet feasible, a transient transformation protocol for Xerophyta seedlings may be developed.