Portrait photo of Petra Marhava in front of treesPhoto: Peter Marhavy

The European Research Council (ERC) announced today the winners of the ERC Starting Grants. One of them is Petra Marhava who will use this grant to understand better how plants deal with temperature variations which are expected to increase through the climate change. The call from ERC is highly competitive covering all disciplines of research. Petra Marhava will receive for her project "Hot-and-Cold" about €1.5 million and use this money to start her own group at UPSC.

High and cold temperatures can negatively affect growth and development of plants. Petra Marhava, researcher at the Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, wants to understand what happens in the cell under such temperature stress. She will focus on the plant hormone auxin and analyse how it helps the plant to adjust its growth and development under cold or heat.

“I started to work with auxin during my PhD thesis and there is already much known about how it controls growth and development but there is still a lot of information missing about the regulation of auxin transport during temperature stress responses,” says Petra Marhava. “I want to fill this gap and study what happens on the cellular and molecular level when plants experience cold or heat. I think that this knowledge is needed to figure out how climate variability will impact agriculture and natural ecosystems.”

Petra Marhava will work with the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana, focusing on the root that is easy to access with advanced imaging techniques. She plans to use high-resolution imaging techniques with a temperature-controlled stage system. This will allow her to control the ambient temperature and directly monitor the changes that appear in the cells under cold or heat treatment. She will complement these studies with additional large-scale analyses of proteins and gene activities and with chemical genomic screen.

After her master’s degree in Molecular Biology, Petra Marhava worked as cytogeneticist at the National Cancer Institute of Slovak Republic. In 2015, she finished her PhD in Jiří Friml’s group at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria and moved then on to a postdoc in Christian Hardtke’s group at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland before she joined UPSC in 2020. Petra Marhava was finalist of the 2020 New Phytologist Tansley Medal for excellence in plant science and received in November 2021 a starting grant from the Swedish Research Council. She will start setting up her group at UPSC in summer 2022 when she comes back from her maternity leave.

The European Research Council, Europe’s premiere funding organisation for research and innovation, awarded in total 397 early-career researchers from 45 nationalities with ERC Starting Grants. The projects come from a broad range of different disciplines and the call is very competitive with a success rate of about ten percent. More than 4000 proposals were submitted to last year’s call. The selected proposals will be carried out in 22 countries belonging to or associated with the European Union (EU). This was the first call under the EU’s new Research & Innovation programme Horizon Europe with an investment of €619 million.

Link to the press release from the European Research Council

For more information, please contact:

Petra Marhava
Umeå Plant Science Centre
Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @MarhavaPetra