What are your research interests?
Research in my lab group broadly falls under one of two research themes. One theme applies molecular genetic tools to help us better understand the biology of a diverse range of organisms. Our study species have included bacteria, fungi, plants, small mammals, whales and birds. The other theme concerns the biology and evolution of specialised pollination systems in Australian orchids. With our international team of collaborators this ARC funded research program extends across the fields of entomology, pollination biology, chemical ecology, biochemistry, molecular biology and phylogenetics. This research has discovered entirely new classes of volatile compounds along with other new to science compounds that are involved in orchid-pollinator interactions. Current research is now investigating the biosynthesis and evolution of these novel compounds.
What are your teaching interests?
I am presently a major contributor in 2nd year Genetics (BIOL2151). In this course I focus on the topic of DNA forensic analysis that provides a nice real-life example of molecular methods and population genetic analysis in action. At the graduate level, one contribution I have made that connects teaching and research has been the ongoing development of our software package: GenAlEx: genetic analysis in Excel. Population genetic software for teaching and research. Initially developed for teaching, but also offering some unique tools for research, the uptake of the software has surpassed my wildest dream. Not only is the software used across many countries for teaching, but Google Scholar also indicates an excess of 10,000 cites, demonstrating its far-reaching research impact.
What advice would you give to prospective young scientists?
Being a scientist is more than just a 9 to 5 job! To be successful it takes talent, hard work, lots of passion and a far degree of serendipity. Above all it is important to always have fun! If you are not passionate about your research topic, and don’t have fun doing research, I suggest you consider a job elsewhere!
- This profile originally appeared in the RSB newsletter, Issue 81, November 2017.
- Peakall group website.