Dr Crystal Sweetman

Lecturer in Plant Biotechnology

College of Science and Engineering

place Biological Sciences (301)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

My academic background is plant biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology. My career goal is to identify new mechanisms for improving plant health and productivity in response to the environmental and sustainability challenges impacting global food production. The motivation for this research is the increasing deficit of food availability and accessibility to humans particularly in third-world countries: a result of not only population growth but also crop susceptibility to environmental stress and the increasing incidences of catastrophic natural events and extremities of weather associated with climate change. Combined also with stagnating yield performances since the plateau of the green revolution. As a plant biochemist and molecular biologist, I can help by exploring new ways to improve plant resilience to environmental stress, and this theme drives my research.

Prior to my current role at Flinders University, I held a post-doctoral research position at The University of Adelaide. There, from 2010-2014 I was Chief Investigator on a research grant from the Grape and Wine Research & Development Corporation (GWRDC, now Wine Australia). The project was entitled “Organic acid metabolism and the control of grape berry acidity in a warming climate”. I began employment as a Research Associate in Plant Biotechnology at Flinders University in July 2014. Here, I have worked on two major projects: an ARC Discovery Project, "Engineering the plant mitochondrial electron transport chain for tolerance of environmental stress", and the Flinders node of an ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub, “Legumes for Sustainable Agriculture” on a project theme entitled "Managing legume oxidative stress through altered mitochondrial activity".

I am currently developing more independent research ideas around the roles of organic acids and other primary metabolites in balancing plant growth and plant stress responses.


2012: Doctor of Philosophy (Molecular Biology & Biochemistry), Flinders University, School Of Biological Sciences, thesis entitled “An examination of malate metabolism in Vitis vinifera during fruit development and in response to elevated vineyard temperature”

2006: Bachelor of Science (Honours), 1st Class, GPA 6.26, Flinders University, School Of Biological Science, thesis entitled “Non-phosphorylating pathways of respiration in Vitis vinifera berry development”

Honours, awards and grants

The importance of my work was recently acknowledged by ASPS, in September 2020, with the prestigious Jan Anderson award, which recognises outstanding female early/mid-career researchers in plant science in Australia. This gave me the opportunity to deliver a public seminar to an international audience, as part of the Plantae Presents webinar series (https://plantae.org/plantae-presents-asps-awardees-lectures-crystal-sweetman-kristine-crous-alex-wu-and-karen-frick/).

Supervisory interests
Plant molecular biology
Plant stress responses
Higher degree by research supervision
Associate supervisor: Plant biotechnology, gene expression and bioinformatics — Associate (Univ of Adelaide) (1)