Investigator Profiles

Chief Investigators      Associate Investigators        Partner Investigators       Project Leadership Team

The Scientific Advisory Committee

Chief Investigators

Professor Vincent Bulone, University of Adelaide
Director (from January 2015)

Professor Bulone's research is focused on cell wall polysaccharide structure and metabolism in higher plants, oomycetes and fungi.  Capitalizing on his long standing and renowned experience in the area of plant and microbial Glycoscience, Vincent brings novel research capabilities of strategic importance.

Professor Tony Bacic, University of Melbourne
Deputy Director & Chief Investigator: Cell Biology and Biochemistry of Walls

Professor Bacic has established a concentration of expertise in complex carbohydrates (glycomics), proteomics, metabolomics and other key platform technologies. He has state-of-the-art analytical equipment and capabilities for analysis of wall-related macromolecules that are amongst the most comprehensive in the world.

Professor Rachel Burton, University of Adelaide
Chief Investigator: Molecular Genetics of Wall Synthesis

Professor Burton’s research is focused on cell wall polysaccharide biosynthesis and brings high level skills in emerging techniques in functional genomics to the Centre of Excellence.

Professor Mike Gidley, University of Queensland
Chief Investigator: Cell Wall Organisation and Molecular Architecture

Professor Gidley brings experience in linking polysaccharide structure with physicochemical properties, with functionality in walls, and with industrial applications. He has capabilities in construction and characterisation of cellulose/polysaccharide composites as functional models for the assembly and disassembly of walls.

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Associate Investigators                                                                                

Professor Diane Mather, University of Adelaide

Professor Mather is an experienced applied plant breeder who advises on the delivery of research outputs through plant variety development, building on past collaborations with the Cell Wall Group in Adelaide. She supervises/advises PhD students and postdoctoral researchers on the choice and development of populations and on designing and performing genetic experiments.

Professor Robert Gilbert, University of Queensland

Professor Gilbert’s expertise is in the development of biosynthesis-structure-property relationships for plant cell wall polymers and relating them to the underlying genetics. His input to the concomitant data-processing and mathematical interpretation of these sensitive data to develop causal (as distinct from empirical) relations between the genetics and growth conditions controlling the molecular architecture of cell wall polymers, and between this architecture and properties of interest is essential.

Associate Professor Jason Stokes, University of Queensland

Associate Professor Stokes has expertise in the integration of polymer, colloidal, interfacial and material science principles in developing relationships between fundamental characteristics of plant cell wall systems and their material properties. The work will lead to understanding how structure at different length scales influences properties and utilisation of cell walls in diverse applications.

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Partner Investigators                                                                                   

Professor Robbie Waugh
The James Hutton Institute, UK

Professor Waugh is leader of Genetics, a department of 90 scientists at the James Hutton Institute (formerly the Scottish Crop Research Institute). He plays a significant role in national and international organisations that promote and co-ordinate global research on wheat and barley. Professor Waugh and colleagues make the most comprehensive barley genetic resources in the world available to the Centre and will contribute to projects on the genetics and evolution of polysaccharide synthases in the grasses, and on changes in cell walls during plant-pathogen interactions. Professor Waugh visited the Centre in December to formulate project collaborations and has hosted visits from Centre staff and students.

Professor Claire Halpin
University of Dundee, UK

Professor Halpin is the Director of the Cell Wall Lignin program within the £26 million BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre at the University of Dundee (UK). She is an expert in the biochemistry and cell and molecular biology of lignin synthesis. Professor Halpin’s expertise is complementary to the Centre’s expertise in wall polysaccharide biosynthesis and remodelling and will allow for collaborations on molecular genetics and manipulation of lignin biosynthesis in barley straw; and on characterisation of barley genes that might be involved in recombination during the evolution of cellulose synthase-like genes.

Dr Vic Knauf
Arcadia Biosciences Inc., USA

Dr Knauf is the Chief Technical Officer with Arcadia Biosciences, who develop agricultural products to capitalise on opportunities that benefit the environment and enhance human health. He provides specialised expertise in sorghum transformation and TILLING (Targeting Induced Local Lesions in Genomes), a method in that allows directed identification of mutations in a specific gene. As named inventor on 27 US patents, Dr Knauf has extensive experience in developing and managing multi-million dollar commercial biotechnology projects. He is involved in collaboration and funding of sorghum projects underway at the SA Node.

Dr Patrick Schweizer
Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK), Germany

Dr Schweizer is the Leader of the Plant Genome Resources Center at the $54m pa Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Germany. He has expertise in plant-pathogen interactions and uses functional genomics to dissect the mechanisms of resistance and susceptibility. The exploitation of disease-resistance mechanisms is a major objective of contemporary plant breeding and his collaborations with the ARC Centre will advance knowledge in plant-microbe interactions at the cell-wall level.

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Project Leadership Team                                                                          

Dr Helen Collins, University of Adelaide

Dr Collins has expertise in cereal biochemistry. She received her PhD from the University of Adelaide in 2003 in malting research as part of the South Australian Barley Breeding Program. Since then she has been working on the cell walls in grain and their relationship to dietary fibre and more recently on germination of barley. She is currently employed as a research scientist on a Centre associated ARC linkage project investigating the Physiology and Genetics of Barley Grain Germination. 

Dr Neil Shirley, University of Adelaide

Dr Shirley is a bioinformatician with expertise in transcriptomic analysis. He received his PhD in organic chemistry in 1987 from the University of Adelaide the worked a s postdoctoral fellow at Flinders University for two years. He returned to the University of Adelaide in 1991 at the Special Research Centre for Basic and Applied Plant Molecular Biology with Professor Bob Symons and Professor Peter Langridge. He joined the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics in 1999 then joined the Centre of Excellence in 2011.

Dr Kim Johnson, University of Melbourne

Dr Johnson is a plant developmental biologist with research expertise in molecular and cell biology; and mechanical regulation of plant growth.  She obtained her PhD from the University of Melbourne in 2004 then worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Edinburgh (UK) on regulation of epidermal development. She undertook postdoctoral research at the John Innes Centre (Norwich, UK) working on control of organ size in Arabidopsis before returning to the University of Melbourne to join the ARC Centre.  

Dr Wei Zeng, University of Melbourne (joined the PLT in December 2016)
Dr Zeng is a carbohydrate biochemist focussed on characterising glycosyltransferases (GTs) involved in plant cell wall polysaccharide and proteoglycan biosynthesis. He received his PhD from Ohio University (USA) in 2009. After postdoctoral
training at Pennsylvania State University, he joined the Centre of Excellence in 2011.

Dr Purnima Gunness, University of Queensland

Dr Gunness is a Biologist with research expertise in in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro digestion of lipids; structure and role of bile salts in lipid digestion; interactions of bile salts with polysaccharides; and sensory sciences. She was awarded her PhD in Nutrition and Food Sciences (UQ) and then joined the Centre of Excellence as a postdoctoral research fellow in 2012.

Dr Gleb Yakubov, University of Queensland (joined the PLT in December 2016)

Dr Yakubov is a physical chemist with research expertise in surface forces, molecular biophysics and scanning probe microscopy. He received his PhD from the University of Mainz and The Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (Germany) and has worked as a research scientist and technical project leader at Unilever R&D (UK). He joined the Centre of Excellence in 2012.

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