Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your academic background?
I was born and raised in Madrid, Spain, but since my parents had immigrated to Spain from China I could say that my cultural background is mixed.
I studied a Bachelor’s degree in Biology at the Complutense University of Madrid where my initial interest was in genetic engineering. During the final year of my degree I inclined towards wine science as it is a more integrative discipline where the aim is to produce a product that people enjoy.
While I was finishing my biology degree I took complementary courses in wine tasting and wine microbiology. I also engaged in internships as a laboratory assistant at the Madrid Institute of Rural, Agricultural and Food Research and Development (IMIDRA), where I worked on monitoring the spread of Xylella fastidiosa and performed vinification trials on local minority grape varieties (those whose wines are not found in the usual shops… yet).
Later, I studied a Master’s degree in Biotechnology at the Autonomous University of Madrid and I developed my MSc thesis on salt tolerance in wild grapevines with rootstock breeding potential, working with the Centre for Plant Biotechnology and Genomics (CBGP UPM-INIA). As I wanted to continue my career overseas I searched for positions in viticultural and oenological research in different countries with strong and innovative wine sectors. While having a look at the amazing wine science in Australia I got in contact with the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production.
Could you introduce us to your project and what it involves?
I work on the project Genetic Basis of Salt Exclusion in Grapevine, under the supervision of Prof. Matthew Gilliham (University of Adelaide/Waite Research Institute), Dr. Mandy Walker (CSIRO) and Dr. Anthony Borneman (Australian Wine Research Institute/University of Adelaide).
This project focuses on finding the genomic regions associated with mechanisms of salt tolerance in Vitis rootstocks, with a special interest in salt exclusion. The importance of our research is to fight against increasing soil salinisation driven by groundwater irrigation and climate change, which impacts grape quality in some important viticultural regions around the world. Increasing soil salinisation may potentially compromise the viability of vineyards if levels of salinity rise to levels where berries become unsuited for winemaking or the grapevines cannot survive.
Our results could provide valuable references for the breeding of improved salt tolerant rootstocks, better adapted to Australian soils and climate conditions, and able to sustain high quality grape production under salinity.
What can you see yourself doing in the future?
I don’t like to plan too far in to the future, as things can change unexpectedly. Most probably I will keep searching for research projects related to wine science or other fields in biology (as I am a biologist after all!) and I might have a go at teaching as well. At some point during my career I would like to study oenology and make my own wines!