Susan Howitt

Associate Director Education

Professor Susan Howitt completed her PhD at ANU, working on the genetics of symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria. She then changed fields, moving to the John Curtin School of Medical Research to work first on the E. coli ATP synthase and later becoming involved in a project on the GABAA receptor. Both projects used genetic approaches to address the structure and function of these proteins and this research led to her current interest in another class of membrane proteins, nutrient transporters. In 1997 Susan was appointed to a lecturing position. This has led to an increasing interest in learning and teaching and she has completed a Master in Higher Education. Her current research interests are in the area of student learning, in particular relating to conceptual learning and learning about research.

She is also the Senior Tuckwell Fellow, with responsibility for developing and coordinating a program for the Tuckwell Scholars.

Research interests

My science research interest is in how transporters function and we aim to understand their molecular mechanisms. We are using heterologous expression systems to characterize transporters and mutant variants that have been generated by site-directed mutagenesis or random methods. This allows us to test hypotheses about which regions of the transporter are important for function. Our current focus is on sulphate transporters from plants and bicarbonate transporters from cyanobacteria.

I am also interested in educational research, focusing on two related areas, learning for conceptual understanding and learning about research. The latter includes research into how students understand the nature of science and the research process and is supported by an OLT grant. We are examining learning in lab classes, courses about science and in undergraduate research projects, with the aim of enhancing learning about the nature and practice of research. By focussing on ways of thinking and practising in students' chosen discipline, we hope to better prepare students for their future careers in a complex and changing world.

Recent grants

  • TREASURE (Teaching Research: Evaluating Assessment Strategies for Undergraduate Research Projects). Funded by the Office of Learning and Teaching, 2012-2014.

Selected publications


  • Howitt SM and Wilson AN. Developing, expressing and contesting opinions of science: encouraging the student voice. Submitted to Higher Education Research and Development.
  • Howitt SM and Wilson AN.  Revisiting ‘Is the scientific paper a fraud?’  EMBO Reports.


  • Wilson A., SM. Howitt, G. Åkerlind, P. Roberts, K. Wilson. (2013) Connecting expectations and experiences of students in a research immersive degree. Studies in Higher Education. 38: 1562-76


  • Wilson A., SM. Howitt, K. Wilson, P. Roberts. (2012). Academics' perceptions of the purpose of undergraduate research experiences in a research-intensive degree. Studies in Higher Education: 37: 513-52
  • Price GD, Pengelly JJ, Forster B, Du J, Whitney SM, von Caemmerer S, Badger MR, Howitt SM, Evans JR. (2012) The cyanobacterial CCM as a source of genes for improving photosynthetic CO2 fixation in crop species. J Exp Bot. 64: 753-68
  • Seymour VA, Curmi JP, Howitt SM, Casarotto MG, Laver DR, Tierney ML.(2012) Selective modulation of different GABAA receptor isoforms by diazepam and etomidate in hippocampal neurons. Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 44(9):1491-500
  • Wilson A and Howitt SM (2012) Is more always better? An Australian experiment with a research-intensive undergraduate degree. Council of Undergraduate Research Quarterly. 33: 28-33


  • Price GD and Howitt SM (2011) The cyanobacterial bicarbonate transporter BicA: its physiological role and the implications of structural similarities with human SLC26 transporters. Biochem Cell Biol. 89(2):178-88
  • Price GD, Shelden MC, Howitt SM (2011) Membrane topology of the cyanobacterial bicarbonate transporter, SbtA, and identification of potential regulatory loops. Mol. Memb. Biol 28(5):265-75.


  • Shelden MC, Howitt SM and Price GD (2010) Membrane topology of the cyanobacterial bicarbonate transporter, BicA, a member of the SulP (SLC26A) family Mol Memb Biol 27: 12-23
  • SM Howitt, AN Wilson, KF Wilson and P Roberts (2010) “Please remember we are not all brilliant:” undergraduates' experiences of an elite, research-intensive degree at a research-intensive university . HERD 29: 405-420
  • Gruber BD, Ryan PR, Richardson AE, Tyerman SD, Ramesh S, Hebb DM, Howitt SM, Delhaize E. (2010) HvALMT1 from barley is involved in the transport of organic anions.J Exp Bot. 61:1455-67
  • Henry RI, Cobbold SA, Allen RJ, Khan A, Hayward R, Lehane AM, Bray PG, Howitt SM, Biagini GA, Saliba KJ, Kirk K. (2010) An acid-loading chloride transport pathway in the intraerythrocytic malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. J Biol Chem. 285(24):18615-26.

All publications

Professor Susan Howitt is an Associate Director of Education and the Deputy Head of the Biology Teaching and Learning Centre. In this capacity she has the responsibility for the mentoring of teaching-focused academics in the Research School of Biology, and supporting educational research projects. She will also supervise the ANU Hubs and Spokes (in Medical Sciences) appointee liaising with the University of South Australia and our Joint Bachelor of Medical Science. She is the College First Year Course Adviser, and represents the Research School of Biology on the various College-level committees, and she is also the Senior Tuckwell Fellow, with responsibility for developing and coordinating a program for the Tuckwell Scholars.