Pablo Muñoz Rodríguez, D.Phil.

Welcome to my personal website! I am Pablo Muñoz, a Spanish biologist currently working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford. My research focuses on the systematics of the plant genus Ipomoea (family Convolvulaceae), commonly known as the morning glories, and on the origin and evolution of its most famous member, the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.). I also participate in various projects studying the systematics of other groups of tropical plants, as well as have worked on biodiversity conservation and biodiversity data management. I am an active member of several academic societies and I am also involved in several projects of science communication.


I grew up in a small town in Madrid, Spain, not far from the Guadarrama Mountains and the (gorgeous) Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. I attended a state primary school and a state secondary school, both with notable success. As I remember it now, I was very young when I decided I wanted to be a biologist. It would not be easy nor would it make me rich, but nonetheless I followed my instincts and enrolled in a Biology degree at Autonomous University of Madrid. In the final years, and with most fellow students leaning towards a career on biomedicine or biotechnogy, my interests carried me down the botany route. I completed my biology degree back in 2010 and, one year later, a Masters in Biodiversity from the same university.

By the time I completed my Masters, I had decided I wanted to do a PhD. However, that proved to be a difficult thing to do... in Spain. If I were to enrol in a PhD experience, it had to include a salary. I thus spent three years applying to grants and scholarships from different Spanish organisms and foundations, with little success. Not that my CV wasn't impressive (it wasn't), but my marks were not extra-terrestrial —as the Spanish government seemed to require those days to access a scholarship. My marks were above average, I believe, but still insuficient. Luckily enough, in parallel to submitting unsuccessful applications, I had the opportunity to participate in several projects of conservation biology and data management that allowed me to start gaining professional experience.

In 2013, I realised it would be impossible to do a PhD in Spain, so I started looking for options abroad. Long story short, I was finally offered a PhD position at Oxford, more specifically in the Interdisciplinary Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership programme, a four-year programme with eight weeks of taught classes and a 3-month internship.


I arrived in Oxford on 29th September, 2014. I wrote about that, in Spanish, in a book published a few years later (ask me if you want to know more!). As I mentioned above, I joined the Interdisciplinary BioDTP programme, a four-year programme that includes three months of taught classes, two rotation projects (three months each), an internship —which I did at the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru— and, of course, a doctoral research.

In Oxford, a PhD is called a D.Phil., Doctor Philosophiæ. I did my D.Phil. at the Department of Plant Sciences, a beautiful early 20th century building in central Oxford, under the supervision of Robert Scotland, then lecturer and now Professor of Systematic Botany. My thesis focused on the systematics of the genus Ipomoea and on the origin and evolution of the sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam. I submitted it in October 2018 and defended it two months later. I was granted leave to supplicate from University of Oxford on January 2019, which proudly made me the first Doctor in my family.

Alongside my work on Ipomoea and the sweet potato, during those four years I was very lucky to participate in numerous activities of science communication and outreach. In addition, I traveled to several countries (Peru, USA, France, China) to do field work, learn new techniques or attend seminars and conferences. Overall, I believe the 2014-2018 period was the most successful and one of the most profitable times of my professional career and, not least, of my personal life.


The work I conducted in Oxford during my doctoral studies largely exceeded the content of the thesis I submitted. This turned out to be very important, as it provided the basis of a project proposal submitted to the British Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBSRC). And we were, indeed, successful, obtaining a three-year project that is now the core of my postdoctoral research, also at Oxford. Stay tuned for forthcoming results!

In 2020, the Consortium of European Taxonomic Facilities awarded me the first E-SCoRe award for excellence in research based on natural science collections. I have also been elected president of The Systematics Association for the period November 2021 to November 2024.

Last updated: 13/03/2021

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