I started my scientific career with my Ph. D. in Genetics in IVIA on the detection of salt tolerance QTLs in tomato and Marker-Assisted Selection.
I did a postdoc stay at Cornell University with Dr. Steve Tanksley with a MEC fellowship on the development of tomato introgression lines (ILs) from Solanum habrochaites. QTLs involved in yield, fruit quality, sesquiterpene biosynthesis were characterized, fine-mapped and transferred to elite cultivars.
I joined IRTA in 2000 (now integrated into CRAG) with a postdoctoral contract by MEC, followed by a INIA-Doctor contract and a permanent position. I was responsible of the development of melon genetic maps, leading the international consensus reference map with the ICuGI consortium. We stablished the strategy of “bin-mapping” to construct high density maps. I implemented the QTL analysis approach in melon. We constructed the first IL collection, identifying QTLs for traits as: root architecture, ripening, post-harvest, fruit quality, virus resistance in collaboration with researchers from UPCT, UPV, ARO, IHSM, OSU, INRA, WUR, MPI-MP. Causal genes for ripening and CMV resistance were cloned. With Prof. Narinder Dhillon (Punjab University) I studied the origin and diversification of melon cultivars. I was involved in the implementation of genomics in melon. IRTA group reached the international leadership in melon genomics and genetics, being my responsibility the genetics projects. The research was supported by consecutive Spanish Ministry projects, special calls (MELOGEN, MELONOMICS), and EU projects (ERA-PG).
I obtained a permanent position as Research at CSIC in the IBMCP in 2008 where I lead the Genomics in Plant Breeding laboratory. I continued my melon projects with CRAG, Prof. Dhillon and strengthening collaborations with UPV, CITA, ISHM. The major objectives were deciphering the genetic control of melon fruit morphology from domestication to varietal diversification. We defined consensus QTLs for fruit morphology, cloned one of them that is involved and in a common mechanism that control organ morphology in plants in collaboration with Dr. Esther van der Knaap (University of Georgia). We have detected QTLs involved in melon domestication that we are cloning now. We had several international collaborations studying the origin and evolution of melon cultivars. We developed an IL collection with a wild melon as donor and two additional IL collections from different Asian landraces with COMAV. Currently we are exploiting the diversity from these collections. I also have a collaboration with Dr. Antonio Granell in tomato, I have been responsible of the genetic analysis in the projects. We constructed a novel IL collection to study fruit quality, volatile composition and heat stress tolerance. We contributed to understand the genetic basis of the loss of flavor from the traditional tomatoes. We are currently cloning some of those QTLs and transferring to elite material. The melon projects has been funded by consecutive Ministry projects and the tomato projects by three H2020 projects (TRADITOM, TOMGEN, HARNESSTOM) involving collaborations with EU groups. I have participated in 18 national and 9 international projects, leading 9 of them, mostly in the last 10 years.
I had also collaborated with companies in eight direct contracts in both melon and tomato. During last years I also has several divulgation activities as talks in different divulgation forums, articles in growers journals, collaboration in the podcast “A Ciencia Cierta”.
I have supervised 8 Ph. D. students, plus one in progress. Seven of them continue their career in the research sector, one in a private company, four with permanent positions in Universities or public research institutions and two as postdocs.