December 15, 2021, by Lexi Earl

Understanding the keys of adaptation in plants: An interview with Dr Raziyeh Abdilzadeh

Raziyeh Abdilzadeh is a postdoctoral fellow working with Prof Levi Yant on Preadapt: revealing the basis of whole genome duplication-mediated adaption, a Leverhulme funded project. Razi joins the Future Food Beacon from the Ferdowsi University of Mashhad where she completed her PhD in 2020.

Tell us about your role

I am a postdoc research fellow in Prof. Levi Yant’s laboratory, working on a Leverhulme-funded grant. I joined the lab in September 2021. The project examines polyploidy and adaptation in plants, focusing on how they adapt to changing climates or environmental hazards. Adaptation is very important in evolutionary biology and evolutionary genomic studies.

How did you become interested in this kind of work?

In high school I wanted to be a biologist because I love nature and wanted to spend my professional time studying nature. I was curious about the rules of nature. I started my Bachelor in Biology and then in my Masters, I started working on polyploid Artemia (brine shrimp). Then for my PhD, I was working on birds and the population genome/gene flow on Sylvia curruca complex in Mashhad University in collaboration with Gothenburg University in Sweden. Now, for my postdoc, I am again working on population genomics but this time on plants. I am still passionate about my field of study.

Is this your first postdoctoral fellowship?

Yes. A short time after I completed my PhD, the situation changed due to Covid-19 and quarantine! While I waited, I joined the Laboratory of System Biology and Bioinformatics at the University of Tehran to improve my skillset in analysing data. I was also awarded two years’ postdoctoral scholarship from the Sven och Lilly Lawskis Foundation in Sweden. (As I mentioned already, because of my PhD thesis I spent some time in Sweden).

What was it like in Sweden?

I liked Sweden very much. I started working on the whole-genome with my supervisor Prof. Urban Olsson, and I had my first experience programming and analysing birds whole-genome data.

What is a normal day like for you?

Nowadays, I mostly work on genome data analysis on the HPC, coding and script analysing and I don’t do any field sampling and wet lab. I still love that kind of work and I hope in the future I will do them again. I enjoy my daily work and new analysis and results gives me more energy to keep moving forward.

How did you first become interested in biology?

I am from Azerbaijan in Iran which has beautiful natural spaces – mountains, pure nature can be found there. There are lots of animals and plants. I spent my time in nature since I was a child. When I was in high school I was culturing small spiders and insects, studying their behaviour and things. I had a small laboratory in our house! My family and people around me all predicted I would be a biologist! I was lucky that I was chosen for biology after the universities entrance exam. When I was in high school, I was also reading biographies of scientists, and mainly about Jane Goodall. Maybe these were inspiring to me and I followed that.

What was it like being a PhD?

My field of study is fantastic. It is a mix of sampling, laboratory work, bioinformatics and computer work. I spent lots of time in nature, sampling, trying to find the species I am looking for. Then I did laboratory work and analysis in Sweden. All people love nature and animals and I am lucky that I spend and enjoy all my time on this.

Do you have any advice for any new PhDs?

If they are passionate about their field of study, they should follow it and go forward with love!

What are you most proud of to date?

I don’t think I’ve done any important things in my research yet. But, it is my responsibility to pay off my debt to science and the world by addressing the practical aspect of evolution which allows us to be a good player against climate change, disease etc. There are lots of puzzles. I hope we can solve some of those puzzles at Yant’s lab!

Posted in Meet the Beacon