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My Story

After earning a BSc (Hons) in Biology from the University of Bristol, I was awarded an MSc from the University of Durham. My PhD studies were conducted at Long Ashton Research Station, and I was awarded a PhD at the University of Bristol, UK, in 2001. Following a brief postdoc at the University of Bristol, I relocated to Australia in 2002 to serve as a senior research scientist at DPI-Victoria. Transitioning back to academia in 2007, I assumed leadership of a research group at the University of Queensland as an ARC QEII Research Fellow. In 2014, I moved to the University of Western Australia to pursue my ARC Future Fellowship. As an ARC Laureate Fellow, I lead a plant genetics and genomics research group within the School of Biological Sciences, focusing on disease resistance in Brassicas.

Research interests 

Crop Improvement

Crop production is limited by disease and drought, and the global demand often exceeds the production capabilities of current cultivars. I develop and apply breakthrough biotechnological advances for crop improvement through the identification of genomic regions controlling traits, which are being translated to commercial outcomes. I have a focus on Brassica species, such as canola, and these novel methods are leading to an increase in the yield of this important crop, thus contributing to national exports and increasing global food security. My identification of genes linked to shatter tolerance, blackleg disease resistance and oil quality has already led to the development of new canola cultivars with enhanced productivity, profit, and yield stability. Whilst much of the work is focused on Brassicas, I also apply these technologies to other crops, including wheat, chickpea and soybean.

Evolution of disease resistance genes

Plant disease resistance genes play a critical role in providing resistance against pathogens. The largest families of resistance genes are the nucleotide-binding site, leucine-rich repeat genes (NBS-LRRs), and receptor-like proteins (RLPs). Hundreds of these genes are present within the genome, however the evolutionary history of these genes is not fully understood. Genome-wide identification of these genes within and between species allows for the study of which genes are core to a species or family and which have variable roles. We have projects to identify all these genes within Brassica species and wild relative species, perform comparative analysis within and between them, and provide an understanding of the evolution of these genes and their role in disease resistance. As part of this, we focus on pan-genomics.

Genomics of Plant pathogen interactions

Research on the interactions between plants and pathogens has become one of the most rapidly moving fields in the plant sciences, findings of which have contributed to the development of new strategies and technologies for crop protection. A good example of plant and pathogen evolution is the gene-for-gene interaction between the fungal pathogen Leptosphaeria maculans, the causal agent of Blackleg disease, and Brassica crops (canola, mustard, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts). The newly available genome sequences for Brassica spp., wild relatives and L. maculans provide the resources to study the co-evolution of these plants and the pathogen. I use next-generation sequencing technologies to characterise the diversity and evolution of these genes in different wild and cultivated Brassica species, undertake phenotypic analysis of the disease in a variety of cultivars and species and perform association genetics to link to the phenotype and identify novel sources of resistance.


I am always looking for new and exciting opportunities. Let's connect.

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