Tom Bennett

Group Leader

Tom has had a passion for plant development since learning about the ABC model of floral development as an undergraduate in Leeds (1999-2002). He did his PhD with Ottoline Leyser in York (2002-2006), studying the regulation of shoot branching by ‘mystery compound X’ — which we now know to be the strigolactone class of plant hormones. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was during this period that Tom’s core quest to understand how long distance signalling coordinates plant development really evolved.

Reaching the end of his PhD, Tom may have declared that he “was never working on auxin again”, the first in a series of very poor predictions about his own career path (see also: “I’m only working on Arabidopsis from now on” and “I’ll never work with wheat”). Tom thus moved to the Utrecht in the Netherlands to work on root cap development with Ben Scheres (2007-2010). This very much satisfied a desire to work on a classical developmental patterning system, but represents something of a outlier as far as the general career tangent goes.

Moving back to the UK, Tom worked in Jill Harrison’s lab in Cambridge (2010-2012), working on regulation of development in the moss Physcomitrella patens. Tom never really got on with ‘Physco’, but the project helped to underline the potential of evolutionary and comparative approaches to studying plant development.

Tom then moved to the newly-built Sainsbury Lab Cambridge University for a second stint in Ottoline Leyser’s lab (2012-2017). This was a hugely exciting time, both to be working in a ‘cathedral’ of plant science, and to be part of establishing a brand new research institute. It was also a highly productive time!

Tom moved to Leeds in October 2017 to start his own research group, bringing things  back to where it all began!