Dr Rea Laila Antoniou Kourounioti
- Lecturer (Molecular Biosciences)
Rea Antoniou-Kourounioti studied Biology at Imperial College, London, and Mathematics at the University of Crete, Greece, with the intention of combining the two in interdisciplinary science. She then obtained her PhD from the University of Nottingham in 2014, in which she utilised her multi-disciplinary background in a project on artificial photosynthesis, supervised by E. Murchie (Biosciences), O. Jensen (Applied Mathematics), A. Ruban (Biophysics, Queen Mary University, London), J. Wattis (Applied Mathematics), M. Maroto-Valer (Chemical Engineering). The work resulted in a novel hybrid material, which combined the light harvesting complex from plants with an inorganic catalyst, and used visible light to convert CO2 into fuel.
Following her PhD, Rea did a postdoc at the John Innes Centre working with Martin Howard and Caroline Dean on the epigenetic and environmental control of flowering time, in Arabidopsis, by the process of vernalization. She used mathematical modelling and experimental methods to understand the temperature sensing in this pathway and to investigate the strength of the epigenetic memory, which depends on natural adaptation.
In 2022 she joined the University of Glasgow as a lecturer in the School of Molecular Biosciences where she is working to uncover how plants sense temperature.
My research focuses on plants’ response to temperature. I am particularly interested in how plants react to cold temperatures, as a reduction in cold periods with global warming will have significant effects on plant development and their ability to recognise the seasons. Furthermore, unseasonable cold or warm periods, another consequence of climate change, can lead to increased stress when plants are not appropriately prepared for the weather, at the molecular or developmental level.
I am investigating the molecular changes that happen in plants in response to temperature and aim to predict these in future climates. My previous research has shown that temperature sensing is “distributed”, meaning that multiple molecules and processes are affected by temperature, and these are combined by the plant into the temperature input signal. To understand this complicated integration problem, mathematical modelling is a key method that we use.
In the group we combine mathematical modelling and biological experiments. Based on the biological knowledge from experiments including molecular biology, genetics, omics and cell biology, we build a mathematical model to describe the system and gain insights into how it works and where we need to put more effort to understand it. The next step is to go back in the lab and do the experiments that will answer the questions pointed out by the modelling.