Professor David Day

Strategic Professor in Plant Biology

College of Science and Engineering

+61 8 82015205
place Biological Sciences (326)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

I was awarded my PhD from Adelaide University and undertook postdoctoral studies in the United States before joining CSIRO as a Queen Elizabeth II Fellow. I subsequently moved to ANU where eventually I became Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1995. In 1999, I took up the Chair of Biochemistry at the University of Western Australia and later moved to the University of Sydney where I was Executive Dean of the Faculties of Science. I returned to Adelaide at the end of 2009 to take up the role of Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) at Flinders University. I retired from management in 2015 and am now a part-time research professor in the College of Science & Engineering at Flinders University. I am also Secretary for Science Policy at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra. 


BSc (hons) Adelaide University, 1971

Dip Teaching, Adelaide Teachers College, 1971

PhD (plant biochemistry) Adealide University, 1975

Member Australian Institute of Compnay Directors (MAID)

Honours, awards and grants

QEII fellowship, 1978-80

Fellow, Australian Academy of Science

Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor

Key responsibilities

Research in plant biochemistry and molecular biology.

This research is funded by the Australian Research Council and the GRDC. I am currently a Chief Investigator and theme leader in the Industrial Transformation Research Hub “Legumes for Sustainable Agriculture”. My research focuses on mitochondrial respiration and its role in plant growth and response to environmental stresses, and symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes, working with legumes such as chickpea and soybean, and cereals like rice and barley, as well as the model plant Arabidopsis.

Research expertise
Biochemistry and cell biology
Molecular biology
Plant biology
Research interests

My research focuses on carbon and nitrogen metabolism in plants, with an emphasis on respiration and its involvement in plant responses to environmenal stresses, and symbiotic nitrogen fixation in legumes, where I study how soil bacteria, rhizobia, interact with the plant, focusing on nutrient transport across symbiotic membranes. Soybean, chickpea, rice and barley are the main crop plants under investigation.

Mitochondria and oxidative stress in plants

Plants often encounter hostile environments that place them under stress. Reactive oxygen molecules (such as hydrogen peroxide) produced under these conditions act as signals to activate defence mechanisms, but they also cause cell damage. Mitochondria, the subcellular compartments involved in energy production, use oxygen to burn organic acids and generate ATP, but they also generate reactive oxygen species (ROS). My research focuses on enzymes that act in mitochondria to avoid oxidative damage. Genetically manipulating plants to make more of these enzymes alters growth and enhances plant survival under stresses like drought and high temperatures. Some of this work uses the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, but we also work with cereal and legume crops.

Symbiotic N2 fixation

Nitrogen is an essential nutrient for plants and is often a limiting factor in crop growth, requiring application of nitrogen fertiliser. This often leads to the pollution of groundwater and waterways, and land degradation. Legumes like soybean and chickpea form a symbiosis with soil bacteria (rhizobia) that can convert atmospheric N2 to ammonia for use in the plant. The legume–rhizobia symbiosis allows plants to grow without the addition of N fertilisers and is one of the most economically important of all symbioses in the plant kingdom. My research investigates how the plant controls the symbiosis via transport proteins in symbiotic membranes.

Teaching interests

Honours and PhD supervision

Supervisory interests
Cell biology
Plant biology
Respiration in plant growth
Higher degree by research supervision
Associate supervisor: Mitochondria and oxidative stress in plants (2)
Principal supervisor: Cell and plant biology (ANU, UWA and Sydney University) (35)
Expert for media contact
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+61 8 82015205
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0427 398 713
Media expertise
  • Agriculture
  • Biology
  • Plants