I completed my BSc (Molecular Biology and Biochemistry) at ANU and from this degree I was particularly interested in plant science and wanted to keep close to my farming background. Not knowing what to do over summer I walked into RSBS and asked if there were any summer research projects and after receiving a list I read through all of the projects and John Andrews' project to investigate Rubisco was really appealing. So from there I began my research career and transitioned into Honours at ANU to engineer Rubisco in plant chloroplasts by plastid transformation. I continued on to complete my PhD with Spencer Whitney and Susanne von Caemmerer by engineering foreign Rubisco’s into tobacco and determining the physiological impact. After my PhD I completed postdocs at Cornell University, Western Sydney University and was then awarded my DECRA in 2013 to come back to ANU.
Current research interests
Overall my main interest is to improve crop productivity in key crops such as rice, wheat and cotton through discovering new solutions to cope with future climate change.
My current projects include:
- Improving photosynthesis of Eucalytpus trees to cope with future extreme climates.
- Improving cotton productivity to cope with hotter and drier climates by interrogating natural variation within varieties and species.
- Chloroplast RNA biology to understand nuclear/organelle interactions. Important for engineering chloroplasts.
- Exploring natural variation in Rubisco catalysis and photosynthesis within cyanobacteria, algae and C4 plants.
What do you see as challenges for your field of research
Some challenges include: research grants for basic science, interacting with industry and longevity of academic positions.
What do you enjoy most about research?
Three things I enjoy most: 1) Collaborations – I have many national and international collaborations on exciting projects, 2) Generating new solutions to improve crop productivity and 3) Making discoveries to advance my field.
Who is your science hero’s?
Rosalind Franklin, Graham Farquhar, Susanne von Caemmerer and Andrew Benson
What else do you have underway/
Competing in Ironman Teams events!
- This profile originally appeared in the RSB Newsletter, Issue 87, June 2017