I joined Dr Sandrine Claus‘ group as Research Associate in 2015 to work on an MRC-funded project investigating the influence of gut microbiota on the aetiology of Type II Diabetes. This is a multidisciplinary project requiring knowledge and skills in metabolism, physiology, microbiology, animal science and statistics. My multidisciplinary background, a Master in Food Sciences (2011) and Veterinary Surgery (2010) from the University of Extremadura, both fully funded by national grants from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Culture (Becas MEC), is therefore an asset to manage this project successfully. During this period, I was also an intern student in the department of Food Sciences. I was collaborating to different research projects under the supervision of Dr. Jorge Ruiz Carrascal and Dr. Teresa Antequera. I was particularly involved in an investigation of the health impact of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in diet. This was my first research experience and when I discovered I wanted to pursue a career in research.
I was awarded a Marie Curie Initial Training Network Grant (ITN) to carry out my PhD studies at the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), Cambridge, and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) of the University of Aberystwyth. During my PhD, I investigated the nutraceutical forage crop Onobrychis viciifolia (sainfoin) and developed both transcriptomic and agronomic trials under the supervision of Dr. Leif Skøt and Dr. Lydia Smith. My skills in the area of transcriptomics covered the optimisation of RNA and DNA extraction protocols, library preparation for Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS), quality tests (e.g. FastQC) and assemblies, ontology, transcriptional level and pathways studies (e.g. ABySS, Blast2GO, MapMan, KEGG), primer mining and general molecular biology analysis (e.g. PCR, electrophoresis, capillary electrophoresis and primer validation). This practical experience was complemented with specific training at TGAC, where I took several courses between 2013 and 2014 (e.g. “Galaxy” and “De novo assembly“). Apart from my research in the area of NGS, my PhD studies also covered a number of agronomic experiments that optimised the early establishment of this nutraceutical forage crop through the use of different treatments and companions. Through this experience I gained skills in the area of biochemistry (e.g. NIRS and other biochemical analysis such as LECO nitrogen analysis), statistics (e.g. R) and agronomy. I complemented this practical experience with specific training in the area of chemical analysis (specially focused on polyphenols), (University of Turku), in modern plant breeding (Agroscope & ETH) and in quantitative methods in plant breeding (NIAB). The results of these investigations can be found in the book “Sainfoin: surprising science behind a forgotten forage” (ISBN: 978-0-9934533-0-4). In addition, this Marie Curie ITN grant in the LegumePlus project helped me to establish collaborations and develop a great network with many scientists across Europe.
Finally, I joined Dr. Sandrine Claus’ group in 2015 as a Research Associate to investigate the interactions between microbiome (i.e. the gut microbial genome), metabolome (i.e. all detectable metabolites in a sample) and the development of diabetes Type II in a project funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC). We are specifically interested in the interactions between diet, the role played by the maternal gut microbiota, the individual´s microbiota, genetics and the development of the disease. For this purpose, I am combining different approaches including metagenomics (Next Generation Sequencing), metabonomics, and transcriptomics. I am also supporting a Royal Society funded project to investigate the interactions between diet, the bacteria Collinsella aerofaciens (a Coriobacteriaceae) and energy metabolism.
Recent Awards & Memberships:
2015 – RED Award, University of Reading
2015 – Best talk, LegumePlus
2014 – Member of Eucarpia
2014 – Member of the Marie Curie Alumni Association
Publications prior joining the ClausLab:
Book/Manual: M. Mora-Ortiz & L. MJ Smith, “Sainfoin: surprising science behind a forgotten forage”, (ISBN: 978-0-9934533-0-4).
Book/Thesis: M. Mora-Ortiz, “Pre-breeding, Functional Genomics and Agronomic Improvement of the Tanniniferous Forage Crop Onobrychis viciifolia“, Department of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, 2015.