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Cambridge Global Food Security

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

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Chai Hao Chiu

Chai Hao Chiu

PhD Student, Cereal Symbiosis Group, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge


I am interested in the biological processes that underlie how plants perceive and interact with their environment – especially the widespread and ancient symbiosis between plants and beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi. Almost all land plants engage in this symbiosis that can be traced back to more than 400 million years ago. This bi-directional nutrient trade between plants and AM fungi has been important to plant evolution and colonisation of land; and understanding symbiotic nutrient uptake pathway offers significant room for yield and growth improvements in crops.

I received my undergraduate education at Cambridge (2014-2017) where I graduated with a First Class honours in Plant Sciences. The perception of AM fungi often enhances root growth, increasing the interface for symbiotic nutrient exchange. I identified the first gene required for this response in rice. I also showed that this response can be uncoupled from other branches of early symbiotic signalling that enable fungal colonisation. My PhD work, funded by a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, will explore how these various responses – enhanced root development and fungal perception – are perceived by the roots of rice.

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