Dr Helen Fones received her B.A. in Biological Sciences from the University of Oxford (UK) before pursuing her M.Sc. at the University of Birmingham. After returning to Oxford to work with Dr Gail Preston and Prof Andrew Smith, she received a D.Phil. in Plant Science in 2010. Her D.Phil. thesis was entitled ‘The Ecological and Evolutionary Significance of Disease Resistance in Metal Hyperaccumulating Plants’. Dr Fones’ work focussed on the effect of hyperaccumulated metals upon interactions between the plant, Noccaea caerulescens, and the bacterial phytopathogen, Pseudomonas syringae pv. maculicola, showing that metals can directly defend this plant against disease, and demonstrating that other defences in this plant have been lost. Dr Fones has also shown the importance of metal based defences in natural settings, finding that pathogens infecting N. caerulescens have undergone local adaptation to the metal rich environments in which it grows.
After completing her D.Phil, Dr Fones spent a year at the University of Oxford, teaching undergraduate courses in statistics, practical courses in biological science, and tutorials in both areas, as well as helping to prepare and teach biological techniques courses at the University’s doctoral training centre. She was also involved in the administration of the University examinations in biological science.
Building on the work undertaken for her doctoral thesis, Dr Fones now investigates the potential for cross-talk between nutritional stress caused by deficiency, or toxic excess, of zinc or nitrogen, and biotic stress caused by pathogen invasion, with a view to elucidating links between nutritional stress signalling and disease resistance.
In July 2013, Dr Fones received a position as associate research fellow at the University of Exeter.
Fones H, Davis CAR, Rico A, Fang F, Smith JAC and Preston GM. (2010) Metal Hyperaccumulation Armors Plants against Disease. PLoS Pathogens 6(9): e1001093.
Fones, H and Preston, GM. (2012) The Importance of Reactive Oxygen and ROS Tolerance for Pathogenicity in Plant-Pathogenic Pseudomonas. FEMS Microbiology Letters 327: 1-8
Fones, H and Preston, GM. Transition metals in the virulence of plant pathogens and the outcome of plant-pathogen interactions. FEMS Microbiology Reviews - invited review; submitted.
Fones, H, Smith JAC and Preston, GM. A new model for the evolution of elemental defence in the metal hyperaccumulator Noccaea caerulescens (in preparation).
Fones, H, Smith, JAC and Preston, GM. Bacterial endophytes of a natural population of the zinc hyperaccumultor Noccaea caerulescens reveal the importance of zinc tolerance for infection and evidence for local adaptation of the pathogen community (in preparation).Fones, H, Smith, JAC and Preston, GM. Variation in defence signalling across four populations of the metal hyperaccumulator, Noccaea caerulescens (in preparation).