Plant Science


Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University

The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University, opened in 2011, is made up of 150 scientists, technicians and support staff working at the frontiers of knowledge in plant growth and development, addressing some of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.

Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University
Our goal is to bring together tools from across biology and the physical sciences to build an integrated understanding of plant growth and development, and how it is fine tuned to allow plants to adapt their growth to the environment in which they are growing.
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser FRS, Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University

Gatsby's largest ever commitment in plant science has funded the building of a new state-of-the-art research institute – The Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University (SLCU). Set within the inspirational grounds of the University’s Botanic Garden, the aim of the Laboratory is to elucidate the regulatory systems underlying plant growth and development.

Plants are the foundation for virtually every ecosystem and agricultural system on Earth. A fundamental understanding of how plants grow and develop is therefore paramount for the long-term security of a sustainable supply of food and other plant products, such as fuel, fibres and building materials.

The study of plant development is being transformed by the new scientific and technical resources becoming available to biologists, including high-throughput DNA sequencing, new imaging methods, increasingly sophisticated genetic tools, and refined chemical interventions. The data derived from these approaches has opened the way for predictive computational models, which are essential for understanding the dynamic, self-organising properties of plants.

We now have an unprecedented opportunity to obtain an integrated understanding of plant development, setting the stage for a new synthesis that will draw on molecular, cellular, whole plant, and population biology to elucidate how plants are constructed. SLCU is establishing a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment that will capitalise on these exciting opportunities.

Research groups

Ottoline Leyser

Director and Professor

Understanding the role of plant hormones in plant developmental plasticity, using the regulation of shoot branching as a model

Henrik Jönsson

Professor and Associate Director

Developing computational models describing complex processes at the cellular level

Yrjö Helariutta


Understanding the patterning processes involved in the development of plant vascular tissues

Elliot Meyerowitz

Distinguished Research Associate

Investigating how shoot tips produce organs in regular patterns

Alexander Jones

Research Group Leader

Investigating the patterns and dynamics of plant hormones using fluroescent biosensors

James Locke

Research Group Leader

Understanding how cells respond to environmental signals

Edwige Moyroud

Research Group Leader

Investigating mechanisms that account for pattern formation in petals at the molecular, cellular, biophysical and ecological levels

Giles Oldroyd

Research Group Leader

Understanding the signalling and developmental processes in plants that allow mutualistic interactions with mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing bacteria

Sebastian Schornack

Research Group Leader

Investigating the symbiotic processes between microbes and plants

Phil Wigge

Research Group Leader

Understanding how plants sense and respond to temperature

Sebastian Ahnert

Career Development Fellow

Investigating algorithmic descriptions of structures and functional systems in plant biology