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Ms Erin Cullen

Postgraduate Student
Ms Erin Cullen
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge
Downing Street

Cambridge CB2 3EA
Office Phone: 01223 333934


Erin joined the lab in 2016 after an undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of York. Whilst at York she completed a year in industry in the micromorphology department at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Her PhD focuses on the evolution and development of nectar spurs (tubular outgrowths of a floral organ which contain or give the appearance of containing nectar). Nectar spurs are hypothesized to be a ‘key innovation’ which can lead to rapid speciation within a lineage, because they are involved in pollinator specificity. However, given that there are no conventional model plant species which possess a nectar spur, much is still unknown about the development and morphogenesis of spurs. Erin’s project aims to probe both the morphological and molecular basis of nectar spur outgrowth. The species Linaria vulgaris (which has a nectar spur) and Antirrhinum majus (possesses only a nectar pouch, called a gibba) will be examined. Both a candidate gene and a transcriptome approach will be used to probe the molecular basis of nectar spur development. The control of variation in nectar spur length will also be investigated, focusing on Linaria salzmannii and Linaria clementei, two closely related species which have extremely long and short spurs respectively.

Research Interests

Transcriptomics, qPCR, confocal and electron microscopy

Other Professional Activities

Outside of the laboratory, Erin has a particular interest in how research can be integrated into policy decisions, and is an active member of the Cambridge University Science and Policy Exchange (CUSPE). Erin is also passionate about science communication and enjoyed acting as an advisor to the York 2015 iGEM team, where she acted as outreach co-ordinator.

Key Publications

Cullen, E & Rudall, P.J., 2016. The remarkable stomata of horsetails (Equisetum): patterning, ultrastructure and development. Annals of Botany, 118(2), pp.207-218.

Rudall, P.J, Chen, D.E, & Cullen, E, 2017. Evolution and development of monocot stomata. American Journal of Botany, 104, pp.1122-1141.

Cullen, E, Fernandez-Mazuecos, M, Glover, BJ, 2018. Differences in nectar spur length in two sister species of Linaria are due to differences in cell division rather than in cell expansion. Annals of Botany, mcx213,

Border P, Cullen E, 2018. The Microbiome and Human Health, Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, POSTnote 0574.

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