Guillaume Tcherkez

Guillaume

Group research focus

Our research is focused on understanding plant metabolism, mostly using stable isotopes (13C, 15N, 33S) and metabolomics. We use both natural isotope abundance and isotopic labelling to shed light on metabolic fluxes and interactions between metabolic pathways. Plant leaves have competing metabolisms occurring at the same time (photosynthesis, photorespiration, mitochondrial respiration, nitrogen and sulphur assimilation) but the means by which they are reconciled and orchestrated within plant cells is hardly documented.

Teaching and research achievements

My major research achievement was being awarded the Bronze Medal for Life Sciences by the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in 2009 and in 2010, being a laureate of the French University Institute (IUF) as a junior member. It is now 14 years since I started to teach, mostly in botany, anatomy and biogeography. But the most exciting achievement was setting up the exhibition (for undergraduate students) on Australian Flowers in 2013 in Paris, which gave me the opportunity to meet the Australian Ambassador and gather the president of the University of Paris-Sud and Professor Graham Farquhar as the ANU representative.

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

With no doubt, teaching is a pleasure when I see students marvel at biological mechanisms and adaptations, particularly in the field: you can sometimes see in their eyes that they are almost moved to tears when looking closely at complex and nice flowers!

What do you enjoy most about research?

It is now ages since the basics of primary metabolism are known, but pathways are commonly considered separately. The challenge is thus to provide a clear picture of metabolic fluxes and describe interactions. In 2010, we were the first to demonstrate that nitrogen assimilation into amino acids and photosynthesis are mostly disconnected in terms metabolic dynamics. But so much remains to do for other metabolisms. Also, the use of post-genomic methods such as proteomics and metabolomics is now generalized, but efforts are still required to develop ‘omics’ methods for isotopes (which I have named “isotopomics”) including in medicine, so as to define new biomarkers.

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