Inspiring Minds seeks to broaden awareness and impact of graduate student research, while enhancing transferable skills. Students were challenged to describe their research, scholarship or creative activity in 150 or fewer words to share with our community.

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Preserving the plant partner: how copper affects plant-bacteria symbiosis

Many plants form a symbiosis with soil bacteria. This mutually beneficial partnership provides a home for the bacteria, which in turn produce hard-to-get-nutrients and protect the plant from disease. Legumes like soybeans and chickpeas partner with specific bacteria called rhizobia that give them nitrogen. Nitrogen is an essential element for all life, but it normally exists in an inaccessible form. Legumes create protective nodules in their roots to house the rhizobia, and in return the rhizobia make the nitrogen accessible using an enzyme. This enzyme is essential to symbiosis but is also very sensitive to degradation by oxygen. Heavy metals like copper are often released into the environment. These metals may have a detrimental effect on the symbiosis between legumes and rhizobia because of their ability to induce oxidative stress. I am studying the oxidative stress caused by copper and how this affects the plant-bacteria partnership.

Kathryn Lamoureux
MSc candidate, Biology
Faculty of Science - Western University

Sheila Macfie

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Kathryn is an MSc student in Biology, who specializes in Physiology and Biochemistry at Western University. Her research is focused on how oxidative stress, caused by heavy metal pollutants like copper, impact the interactions between legumes and their symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Her research aims to clarify how environmental pollutants from anthropogenic activities can have an effect on the plants that play essential nutrient-recycling roles in their ecosystem. 

You can connect with Kathryn on X at @Katlamouroo and via email at

View Kathryn's work as it appears in the Inspiring Minds Digital Collection:

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