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)
QEII fellowship, 1978-80
Fellow, Australian Academy of Science
Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor
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.
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.
Honours and PhD supervision
Board member, Playford Trust of South Australia
Board member of the Australian Science Media Centre
Member of the governing council of the Australian Academy of Science
Secretary for Science Policy, Australian Academy of Science