Nikita obtained her MSc. degree in Plant Biotechnology at Wageningen University and Research (WUR). For her MSc. thesis, She worked under the supervision of Dr. Yanxia Zhang at the department of plant physiology. Here, she studied the role of Strigolactones in promoting the germination of root parasitic plant Striga. Nikitas studied the molecular mechanism by which Striga seeds are able to sense and germinate in the presence of strigolactones, a hormone released by the host plant. Knowledge from this project could help mitigate the devastating yield losses caused by Striga to major food crops like rice and sorghum.
Currently, Nikita is a PhD candidate working under the supervision of Prof. Leonie Bentsink at the department of Plant Physiology, WUR. Her research focuses on the role of RNA binding proteins (RBPs) in the translational control of seed germination. Seeds are a unique system to study translational control, as they provide an exclusive ON/OFF switch for protein production when they transition from a dry state to a completely hydrated state during germination. Nikita aims to understand the molecular mechanism by which specific RBPs help the seeds sense their environment and make the crucial decision - whether to germinate or not. This is extremely important to ensure seedling establishment. RBPs could hence be used as tools to fine-tune germination in agriculture and under challenging environmental conditions.
Apart from research, Nikita is passionate about open and honest science communication. She wants to bridge the gap between science and society. This led her to co-start the GeneSprout Initiative- A young researcher initiative for open dialogue on New plant breeding techniques.