I studied a B.Sc. in Biology and Biochemistry at the University of Salamanca (Spain) and from there I moved to the UK to undertake a PhD in Plant Biotechnology at The University of Manchester. My PhD work involved developing innovative applications to manipulate the plastid genome as a production platform of high-value products for industry and health. During this time I became more interested in issues related to sustainable agricultural development and food security, and that’s why I came to do a Postdoc here at ANU.
Current research interests
I am currently working in the Whitney Lab (aka Rubisco Lab), as part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis. It is a great place to do science and I consider myself extremely fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most internationally prominent researchers in the field!
In the Whitney Lab we focus in studying the enzyme Rubisco, involved in the CO2-fixing step of the Calvin-Benson cycle during photosynthesis. Rubisco is a crucial enzyme to sustain life on earth, but its catalytic properties frequently limit the growth capacity of many plants. We are targeting these catalytic inadequacies via genetic manipulation with the aim of supercharging photosynthesis to improve growth efficiency in crops.
Within this goal, one of my main interests has been to apply my biotechnology background to develop strategies for expressing Rubisco small subunits in plastids, in order to easily manipulate them individually and validate their catalytic role.
What do you see as challenges for your field of research?
As a scientist working on developing technologies directed to contribute to the battle of food security, I often feel frustrated when I witness ferocious opposition to GMOs. With millions of people lacking access to sufficient nutritious food, I believe that turning GM crops down is a privilege that many can’t afford. Informing and educating the public is as crucial to the food security battle as developing these technologies, and probably one of our biggest challenges ahead.
- Contact Elena Martin Avila
- Whitney lab - Translational photosynthesis - bioengineering enzymes to adjust carbon fixation
- ARC Centre of Excellence for translational photosynthesis