Yulia Yarkhunova

Postdoc

  1. What fascinates you most about plant science?

Plant life is very abundant on Earth, we see plants everywhere and it is a vital part of our life – from an oxygen source to a food source. The variation in form and function of plants is amazing, and at the same time it is astonishing how little we currently understand. Humans can build houses and complex machinery, but we still do not know how to recreate a leaf. Therefore, there are so many open questions which make plant science a critical and fascinating scientific field to pursue.

  1. Tell us briefly what scientific questions you are pursuing at MPIPZ.

With my research I am interested in understanding the genetic and ecological basis of variation in eco-physiological traits and I am using the plant Arabidopsis thaliana as a model system. I would like to understand how changes in the environment are producing variation in traits such as flowering time and growth rates, and I also would like to identify the genes that underlie this variation. And once we connect the links between environment, genotype and phenotype, we can understand more about ecology and evolution of those plants.

  1. What/who has inspired you greatly in your career so far?

Sofia Kovalevskaya, the first female mathematician and first female professor in Russia, was always my inspiration and an example of persistence and perseverance. I cannot imagine how hard it was for a woman to get a professorship and get international recognition back in the 19th century, this woman is an example that everything is possible!

  1. What do/did you find most challenging in your career so far?

I find moving internationally very challenging. I did my Master’s degree in Russia, then moved for my PhD to the United States and now I’m doing a postdoc in Germany. Adjusting to different environments and learning another language is stimulating, but in combination with a new position can be tough.

  1. How do you see your future in science and why?

I enjoy doing science, talking about science and communicating science to students. I strive for an academic career either as a group leader or as an educator at the university level.

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