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smita kurup


Dr Smita Kurup

Plant Developmental Biologist

Plant Sciences for the Bioeconomy

Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, AL5 2JQ
+44 (0) 1582 938 589
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Smita leads research in seed developmental biology. She also heads the Bioimaging facility at Rothamsted Research. Smita has more than 15 years’ experience in live-cell imaging and molecular genetics with a particular interest in using cell imaging technologies to address developmental questions. She aims to identify genes and resolve mechanisms controlling seed development and associated traits affecting final yield in the model plant, Arabidopsis and related Brassica crop species. She has uncovered specific mechanisms that regulate seed size in the Brassicaceae, which include timing of endosperm cellularisation (controlled by MADS box transcription factors). However, overall seed size and yield are constrained by source-sink relationships, the “seed size-seed number trade-off” paradigm, and this is the focus of her research. Smita is investigating the genetic and developmental control of ovule initiation in Arabidopsis. In a current project, her team is manipulating the expression of specific genes in early gynoecial development in Arabidopsis, in an effort to increase ovule primordia number with a view to increasing seed yield. Smita also leads the BBSRC-funded work package, BRAVO, which aims is to combine genomic tools, predictive biology and high throughput phenotyping to link genotype to phenotype across multiple reproductive traits in Brassicas.

Strategic Programme

  • Tailoring Plant Metabolism (TPM)

Science Projects

  • Brassica Rapeseed And Vegetable Optimisation (BRAVO)

PhD Projects

  • Increasing seed size and seed number in Brassica crops
  • Exploring how fungal pathogens communicate with plant cells and cause disease


  • 1996 - Doctor of Philosophy Biological Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  • 1992 - MSc, University of Delhi, Delhi, India
  • 1990 - BSc (Hons.) Botany, University of Delhi, Delhi, India

Measures of Esteem

  • BBSRC TRDF Panel Member 2017
  • Supervisor PhD Student Ms Olivia Tasker
  • Co-supervisor PhD Student Ms Laura Bagley
  • External Examiner PhD Thesis, Dr Pratiksha Mayee, TERI University, India 2016
  • Organiser of the Royal Microscopical Society EM Section 50th Anniversary meeting January 2016
  • Organiser of the biennial Cryo-preparation for Electron Microscop course (RMS accredited
  • Co-supervisor PhD student Dr Ana Machado (2016)
  • Co-supervisor PhD student Dr Sam Gorny (2014)
  • Invited judge on panel for BBSRC Image with impact: Great British Bioscience Photography Competition
  • 2015 - Invited Tutor at the annual Gatsby Summer School
  • Rothamsted Research Strategy Committee member (2015-2017
  • Member of Rothamsted Athena Swan Committee (2013-2016)
  • Elected Member of Scientific Advisory panel of Genomic Arabidopsis Resource Network (GARNet)
  • Invited Panellist on Sense about Science