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Mr Vaibhav Bhardwaj

Graduate Student
Mr Vaibhav Bhardwaj
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Site

Cambridge CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 330219


A scholarship from the Gayatri Fund enabled me to study for an undergraduate degree in Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of Cape Town. 

Following a successful and academically fulfilling undergraduate experience, I applied for and successfully secured the Andrew Mellon-Mays Fellowship and the International Scholarship offered at the University of Cape Town, which enabled me to pursue a Masters of Science degree. 
My Masters research focussed on plant-microbe interactions and asked a novel question - what is the role of the plant circadian clock in regulating defence responses. My research led to a first author publication and helped me win the prestigious Gates-Cambridge Scholarship to carry out my PhD at the Plant Sciences Department of the University of Cambridge. 
Having developed a keen interest in interactions between organisms and my want to understand why some interactions are beneficial while others occur at a cost to one species, I selected Alison Smith's lab for my Phd project. Alison’s group had recently discovered an exciting and novel symbiosis between algae and rhizobia, and thus provided an exciting environment for the development of my ideas and expertise.
Studying at Cambridge offers an opportunity like no other with exciting seminars routinely offered, benefits of funding to attend conferences and an academically rich environment to learn from. In my time here I have benefitted greatly from the resources offered and I look forward to completing my PhD this year and then continuing my academic journey.

Previous Research:

Masters in Molecular Biology at the University of Cape Town.

I worked on the two species model interaction: Arabidopsis thalianaPseudomonas syringae focusing on the role of the circadian clock in plant defense responses to pathogenicity. Our work showed that the circadian clock mediates plant defence responses to the bacterial pathogen. Our results showed that the plant circadian clock modulates plant defence responses, priming them for a strong defence response at dawn. 

Research Interests

My research focuses on a synthetic mutualism between a B12 dependent alga and B12 producing rhizobia. I specifically work with Mesorhizobium loti and Sinorhizobium meliloti. While these two species are well known for their symbiotic interactions with Lotus japonicus and Medicago truncatula, our lab has shown that B12 producing rhizobia are also capable of engaging in a mutualistic interaction when co-cultured with algae.

Using molecular, microbiological and microscope techniques I seek to answer questions that span the fields of microbial ecology and bacterial genetics. I also wish to gain fundamental insights into the nature of single cell symbiosis. The phycosphere of algae is a nutrient rich environment, which hosts a diverse microbiome and our work suggests that members of the microbiome of algae play a vital role in enabling algal growth and survival.

Research Supervision

I am a supervisor for the Physiology 1A course (2013 to present) at Cambridge where I have supervised students from Trinity College, Peterhouse, Downing and Fitzwilliam College. 

I also supervised a rotation PhD student on the Nano-DT Program. 

Other Professional Activities


  • A New Age of Discovery in Aquatic Microeukaryotes (Jan 2016 - poster presentation)
  • SymBLS - Symposium for Biological and Life Sciences (Nov 2015 - Oral Presentation)
  • NoCASS - Norwich - Cambridge Symposium for Students (Aug 2015 - Oral Presentation)
  • CeBiTECH Conference on Algal Biotechnology (September 2014 - Poster Presentation and Elevator Pitch)
  • Gordon Research Conference on Tetrapyrroles (July 2014 - Poster Presentation)
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