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Chris Bowler Silver medal of CNRS

Chris Bowler, 45 years old, is an expert in plant and diatom biology. Since 2002 he has been heading the group of ‘Molecular Plant Biology’ at the Ecole normale supérieure and is now Director of Environmental and Evolutionary Genomics.

His favourite experimental organisms are tomato, Arabidopsis and the diatom Phaeodactylum. His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms controlling responses to environmental signals such as light and nutrients.

During his doctoral work with Profs. Marc Van Montagu and Dirk Inzé in the Laboratorium Genetika at the University of Ghent, Belgium, he revealed the role of superoxide dismutases as a defense against environmental stress. Subsequently, his post-doctoral work with Prof. Nam-Hai Chua at The Rockefeller University in New York identified key players in light signal transduction pathways. In 1994 he established his own research group working on higher plants and marine diatoms at the Stazione Zoologica in Naples Italy and in 2002 he took up his current position at the ENS in Paris.

His group now studies the response of plants and marine diatoms to environmental signals. In plants, he identified the first high pigment gene in tomato, mutation of which causes light hypersensitivity and increased fruit phytonutrient content. The gene encodes the photomorphogenesis regulator DET1, which he found to be involved in regulating chromatin architecture, and the focus of the group is now directed towards understanding the molecular functions of DET1 and how environmental signals such as light impact genome stability in Arabidopsis. In marine diatoms he established molecular tools to assess gene function and has played a major role in coordinating the whole genome sequencing of several species. Using functional genomics he has revealed the cellular response of diatoms to nutrients such as iron and nitrogen, to different wavelengths and intesities of light, and to allelopathic infochemicals. He is one of the scientific coordinators of the Tara Oceans expedition, which left France in September 2009 for a three-year exploration of the state of microscopic life in the world’s oceans using high-throughput imaging- and genomics-enabled approaches. He is member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), associate editor of several major scientific journals, and is member of the scientific advisory boards of several internationally renowned research institutes.