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Marta Maluk

Staff picture: Marta Maluk
University of Dundee Division of Plant Sciences
University of Dundee Division of Plant Sciences
Cereal Pathology Support Technician
+44 (0)1382 568700 ext 7084

The James Hutton Institute
Dundee DD2 5DA
Scotland UK

  • 2009-present: PhD: University of Dundee, Division of Plant Sciences. Thesis: “Improving barley for biofuel production–efficient transformation for lignin manipulation.”
  • 1999 – 2004: BS (Polish MS): Academy of Agriculture in Szczecin, Poland, faculty of Biotechnology and Animal Sciences, speciality: biotechnology in plant production. Thesis – “The influence of the age of culture on somacloning changes in chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflora Tzvelv.) – “Ja Dank” variety.
  • 2003 – 2004: Teaching Course Pedagogical College in Szczecin, Poland.

Current research interests

PhD Studentship

My PhD study has extended work on the genetic manipulation of lignin biosynthesis in grasses using Agrobacterium–mediated transformation of barley in order to improve barley for second generation biofuels production.

At the start of my PhD, I fully characterised the transformation system which was newly established at the Institute's Functional Genomics facility, and used it to generate transgenic barley where expression of the lignin biosynthesis gene, cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD), was suppressed using an RNAi construct for HvCAD2, the most highly expressed CAD gene.

Transgenic RNAiCAD plants showed reduced enzyme activity in the T0 generation and even greater reductions in the next two generations (homozygous lines). The CADRNAi barley lines had similar or slightly reduced Klason lignin content relative to the control plants but the lignin structure and composition were greatly altered. The frequency of resistant interunit bonds was increased and the yield of lignin monomers after thioacidolysis was also changed.

The transgenic plants had lower amount of H and S units compared to control plants and aldehydes were incorporated into the lignin in the RNAi transformants, mainly sinapaldehyde. In conclusion, lignin structure was altered in all transformants with some differences between the various lines. The influence of down-regulation of CAD on saccharification (sugar release for biofuel production), culm strength and pathogen resistance was also investigated and will be reported in a paper in preparation.

My study demonstrated that it is possible to downregulate a gene from the lignin pathway in cereal straw in order to change lignin structure and improve sugar release without adverse impacts on plant growth, fertility and pathogen resistance. The knowledge generated from this study, can be transferred to wheat and other biomass crops in the future.

There is still one year for my PhD to be finished but the project has already achieved most of its objectives and results have been written up for submission to a good journal.

Supervisor: Professor Claire Halpin (University of Dundee).

Past research

  • 2010 – 2013: Demonstrator, University of Dundee.
  • 2009: Technician job – University of Dundee, Division of Plant Sciences.
  • 2004 – 2005: Europlant Ltd. Vitroflora Laboratory - maintaining the bank of in vitro cultures, introducing plants to glass, and creating new technologies (I was creating new multiplication technologies which were describing multiplication factors, multiplication media, cutting procedures, rooting) plus renewing varieties kept in the Vitroflora laboratory bank.
  • 2001 – 2004: Master’s research: Propagation studies on ‘Ja Dank’ cultivar of chrysanthemum over three years. Phenotypic and genotype differences were determined with relation to the control plants propagated in vitro for six months. Phenotype variability was determined at the plantlet stage (in vitro culture) and after planting them in pots. Genotypes of tested plants were compared by analysis of DNA using ISSRPCR method.
  • 2004: Teaching training in Secondary School in Szczecin, Poland.


  • Iannetta, P.P.M.; Begg, G.; Black, K.; Hawes, C.; Karley, A.j.; James, E.K.; Maluk, M.; Newton, A.; Squire, G.R.; Walker, G.; White, P. (2017) Teaming up for good: intercropping and farming-science partnership at the James Hutton Institute., NGO Report for, 8 November 2017.
  • Iannetta, P.P.M.; Begg, G.; Black, K.; Hawes, C.; Karley, A.J.; James, E.K.; Maluk, M.; Newton, A.C.; Squire, G.R.; Walker, G.; White, P.J. (2017) Sustainable legume systems for improved primary produce., SAB Annual Report, May 2017.

Honours, scholarships, prizes and awards

  • PhD studentship. 2009. BBSRC Targeted Priority Studentship.
  • Best Thesis: 2nd place. Competition for the best thesis (of 350 + theses) defended at Agricultural University of Szczecin in the year 2004.
  • “Biotechnologists” student scientific group. 2001-2004.
  • Special educational stipend. 2000-2004. This was awarded on the basis of my first year university exam results.
  • Winner of a province chemistry and Russian language competition at primary school. 1995. That gave me entry (without examination) to any secondary school.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.