While analyzing plant hormones during his PhD research in biochemistry, Pierre-Marc Delaux began to take an interest in the plants themselves and was hooked. Now, based at the Plant Science Research Laboratory in Toulouse, the new EMBO Young Investigator uses a combination of experimental and computational approaches to study plant-microbe mutualistic associations. “We want to know what molecular mechanisms are involved when a plant recruits and accommodates microbes within its cells, and why some associations have evolved in just a few groups, while others are widespread,” he explains.

Delaux hopes that this knowledge can lead to novel plant products one day. Legumes, for example, associate with nitrogen fixing bacteria. “Legumes are in effect self-fertilizing. If we could make nitrogen fixing work in cereals, there would be no need for chemical fertilizer,” he says. “This would completely change agriculture and benefit ecosystems and our climate.” Delaux is looking forward to meeting fellow young investigators from different fields: “The EMBO Young Investigator Network is a great way to make new links with colleagues using novel approaches. Furthermore, as a plant biologist, I think this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that we can learn a lot from studying plants too. They are amazing organisms!”