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Colleen is a plant scientist at the Sainsbury Laboratory, University of Cambridge. She is interested in how plants regulate beneficial plant-microbe interactions. Her research mainly focuses on visualizing and perturbing plant hormone distribution during beneficial symbiosis with soil bacteria and fungi in legumes (Alfafa) and barley. The ultimate goal of her work is to understand how plant-microbe interactions could be enhanced to eliminate the need for expensive and environmentally-unfriendly fertilizer. She is a past EMBO long-term fellow and a current recipient of the Marie Curie-Skłodowska independent fellowship.

Colleen completed her PhD at Duke University in North Carolina, USA. At Duke, she studied plant root barrier formation. Her dissertation uncovered the importance of a plant derived small molecule in maintaining root barrier cell identity. Part of this work was carried out in collaboration at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland funded by an EMBO short-term fellowship. As a graduate student and post-doctoral scientist, Colleen has enjoyed teaching undergraduate students in supervisions and in the lab. Colleen was born and raised near Boston, Massachusetts. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga, hiking, and volunteering at her local food bank.


Chen WQ*, Drapek C*, Li DX, Xu ZH, Benfey PN, Bai SN. Histone deacetylase HDA19 affects cortical cell fate by interacting with SCARECROW in the Arabidopsis root. Plant Physiology. 108, 276-288. (2019)

Drapek C., Sparks, E.E., Marhavy P., Andersen T.G., Hennacy J.H., Geldner, N. and Benfey P.N. Minimum requirements for changing and maintaining cell fate in the Arabidopsis root. Nature Plants. 4, 586-595. (2018)

Pierre-Jerome, E.*, Drapek C.*, Benfey P.N. Regulation of Division and Differentiation of Plant Stem Cells.  Annual Reviews in Cell & Developmental Biology. 34, 289-310. (2018)

Drapek, C. Sparks, E.E., Benfey P.N. Uncovering gene regulatory networks controlling plant cell differentiation. Trends in Genetics. 33, 529–539 (2017).

Sparks, E.E., Drapek, C., Gaudinier, A., Li, S., Ansariola, M., Shen, N., Hennacy, J.H., Zhang, J., Turco, G., Petricka, J.J., Foret, J., Hartemink, A.J., Gordan, R., Megraw, M., Brady, S.M., Benfey, P.N. Establishment of Expression in the SHORTROOT- SCARECROW Transcriptional Cascade through Opposing Activities of Both Activators and Repressors. Developmental Cell 39, 585–596. (2016)

*denotes equal contribution