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Plant Science Panel

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Plant science panel members' biographies

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Dr Sarah Al-Beidh, nominated by the Royal Horticultural Society. Sarah is a post-doctoral researcher at the Royal Horticultural Society  Dr Theodore Allnutt is a Senior Molecular Biologist at The Food and Environment Research Agency.  Matt Audley is a PhD student at Rothamsted Research.  Ian is head of the Entomology facility at the John Innes Centre (JIC) where he has worked for 36 years. He took part in the 'Insecticides and bees' Q&A  Professor Tim Benton, UK Champion for Global Food Security.  Professor Rob Chilcott, nominated by the Society of Biology. Rob is is head of toxicology at the University of Hertfordshire’s Department of Pharmacy and Fellow of the Society of Biology. He is also currently Chair of the UK Register of Toxicologists and a scientific advisor to several UK Government Departments.  Dr Ellen Colebrook, nominated by the Biochemical Society. Postdoctoral researcher at Rothamsted Research.  Dr_Ian_Denholm  Dr Peter Eastmond, nominated by Rothamsted Research. Peter is a Project Leader at Rothamsted Research and his primary research interest is in plant lipid metabolism.  Dr Cornelia Eisenach, nominated by the Society of Experimental Biology. Cornelia currently holds a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.  Professor Lin Field is Head of Biological Chemistry and Crop Protection at Rothamsted Research. She took part in the 'Insecticides and bees' Q&A.  Dr Kevin Folta is associate professor and chair of the horticulture department at Florida University.   Dr Miriam Gifford  Dr Eleanor Gilroy, nominated by the James Hutton Institute. Eleanor is a Molecular Plant Pathologist at the James Hutton Institute.  Sarah Harvey  Dr Wendy Harwood, nominated by the UK Plant Sciences Federation. Wendy is a Senior Scientist at the John Innes Centre.  Dr Richard Haslam, nominated by Rothamsted Research. Peter is a Senior Research Scientist at Rothamsted Research.  Dr Ian Henderson, nominated by The Genetics Society. Ian is a Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge.  Dr Phil Howell has been a pivotal part of NIAB’s pre-breeding group since 2007. He took part in the 'What would your ideal ‘super wheat’ be?' Q&A  Dr Alan Jones, nominated by the UK Plant Sciences Federation. Alan is a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University.  Professor Huw Jones, nominated by the Society of Biology. Huw is the research leader of the Cereal Transformation Group at Rothamsted Research, an honorary professor in the School of Biosciences, Nottingham University and a member of the GMO panel of EFSA (European Food Safety Authority).  Dr Robert Koebner is a consultant supporting agricultural crop improvement research for the developing world. He took part in the 'What would your ideal ‘super wheat’ be?' Q&A.  Dr Smita Kurup, nominated by Rothamsted Research. Smita is a post-doctoral researcher at Rothamsted Research. 

Dr Theodore Allnutt

Dr Theodore Allnutt

Theodore's research interests to date have involved the development and use of DNA techniques in a wide variety of species. His first post-doctoral work was the study of population genetics and dynamics using DNA markers in a range of endangered tree species. Results of these studies have been used to assist in conservation and management decisions and to investigate mating systems and seed / pollen flow in trees. Theodore's research at the John Innes Centre involved the development of a novel PCR technique to isolate GM insertions in transgenic pea plant and map their chromosome locations. This work was funded by the Food Standards Agency and led to methods that could be applied to routine risk assessment of new GMOs. During this time he was also involved in investigation of the evolution of domesticated peas. In his current position at Fera, Theodore's research work initially focussed on the development of DNA detection and characterisation techniques for GM crops to support the work of the UK GM Inspectorate. He performed statistical analysis and computer modelling of the UK Farm Scale Evaluation Gene Flow Project, which measured the pollen flow from GM to non-GM crops in UK trials. This data forms the basis for UK and EU recommended GM coexistence separation distance measures. Theodore is currently the UK committee member for the European Commission Coexistence Bureau technical working group for maize GM coexistence best practice. He provides consultancy and advice on GM molecular issues to DEFRA, the GM inspectorate and the European Commission. In addition to his GMO research and duties, Theodore continues active research in population genetics in several species, currently including bats, foxes and honey-bees.

Matt Audley

Matt Audley

Matt is a PhD student at Rothamsted Research and has an MSc in Crop Improvement from The University of Nottingham. His research focuses on understanding the role of plant hormones in wheat floral development and how this could be applied to produce more heat tolerant varieties. Matt is interested in how plants physiologically respond to environmental stresses and how this is governed by genetics. He is also interested in how plant breeding, biotechnology and agronomy can translate this knowledge into more productive and sustainable farming.

Dr Ian Bedford

Dr Ian Bedford

Ian is head of the Entomology facility at the John Innes Centre (JIC) where he has worked for 36 years. For many years, his research centred on a range of sap sucking insect species (Hemipterans), that are specific vectors of plant viruses throughout the world. This has included aphids, leafhoppers, plant hoppers and whitefly. The problems of whitefly and associated plant viruses within the horticultural crops of southern Europe formed a major part of Ian’s research from 2000 onwards, for which he established and coordinated the European Whitefly Studies Network (EWSN) to collate and disseminate data and focus European research programmes. Ian has also established a DEFRA-approved testing facility at JIC for evaluating the effectiveness of crop protection products on a wide range of invertebrate pest species. Research projects throughout the Norwich Research Park (NRP) where an entomological component is required, rely on the Entomology Facility to design and undertake the biological assessments. The facility also provides an interface with amateur and commercial growers where invertebrate pest issues can be identified and discussed. Topical issues and research outputs relating to invertebrates are also regularly presented through local and national media by Ian and his team of entomologists. Currently Ian is investigating the appearance of the invasive Spanish slug Arion vulgaris in East Anglia.

Ian took part in the 'Insecticides and bees' Q&A.

Professor Tim Benton, UK Champion for Global Food Security.

Professor Tim Benton

Tim Benton is NOT a plant scientist.  Being a university academic is now his principle hobby as he is seconded to the UK’s Global Food Security programme, helping to coordinate research around food security by the UK’s public funders (see www.foodsecurity.ac.uk).  As a researcher, Tim has always worked on understanding how populations respond to environmental change, and has worked extensively on agri-environment interactions.  His recent work includes comparing different farming systems and trying to understand what sustainable agriculture looks like (and what sustainable intensification may mean).

Professor Rob Chilcot

Professor Rob Chilcott

Professor Rob Chilcott is head of toxicology at the University of Hertfordshire’s Department of Pharmacy and Fellow of the Society of Biology.  He has twenty years’ experience and is currently Chair of the UK Register of Toxicologists and a scientific advisor to several UK Government Departments.  He has published a number of articles and has contributed to public debate on a diverse range of contemporary scientific matters such as genetically modified crops and nanotechnology.

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Dr Ian Denholm

Dr Ian Denholm is currently serving as President of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) - the leading Society promoting research on the British and Irish vascular plant flora. BSBI organises and coordinates several national and regional recording schemes, and maintains databases containing over 25 million records that cover nearly 10,000 plant species. Dr Denholm was formerly Head of the Department of Plant and Invertebrate Ecology at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire, and is currently Senior Lecturer in Environmental Sciences at the University of Hertfordshire. His research interests include sustainable approaches to crop protection, agro-ecology, and the systematics of native British and Irish orchids.
Dr Peter Eastmond

Dr Peter Eastmond

Dr Peter Eastmond is a Senior Research Scientist at Rothamsted Research. His main research interest is in plant lipid metabolism. Lipids are among the largest and most structurally diverse families of chemicals in nature and they have many biological functions. Some lipid form membranes; permeability barriers that define cells and compartmentalise all the biochemical processes within them. Other lipids, namely fats, act as nature’s most energy-dense carbon store, while others still function as signalling molecules (e.g. hormones) controlling growth, development and responses to the environment. I am interested in understanding how plant lipid metabolism is regulated, what its many functions are, and how this knowledge can be applied for our benefit.

Dr Cornelia Eisenach

Dr Cornelia Eisenach

Dr Cornelia Eisenach is a plant biologist whose fundamental research focuses on the regulation of plant water use and photosynthesis through stomata. Stomata are pores in the plant surface that allow uptake of CO2 and release of oxygen during photosynthesis but that also permit water loss through transpiration. During her PhD research at the University of Glasgow, UK Cornelia contributed to our understanding of how plants trade off water use and photosynthetic carbon assimilation through stomatal guard cells, the cells that regulate stomatal pore size. During her post-doctoral time at Glasgow, Cornelia was involved in a project to manipulate cellular ion transport processes to enhance photosynthesis. Currently she holds a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Zurich, Switzerland where she continues her work on ion transport in stomatal guard cells and their role in plant water use and photosynthesis.

Professor Lin Field

Professor Lin Field

Lin obtained her PhD at Rothamsted Research, on the molecular genetic basis of insecticide resistance in the aphid, Myzus persicae. After further studies on metabolic resistance, gene amplification and control of gene expression in insects, Lin’s work expanded to the supervision of a Group working on a wide range of target-site resistance mechanisms. She also extended her studies to genes and proteins involved in the recognition of insect semiochemicals, especially odorant-binding proteins and chemosensory proteins. Her Research Group continues to use a combination of genomics and conventional molecular techniques to elucidate resistance mechanisms and gain new insights into molecular recognition, particularly relating to insect-host interactions.

Lin took part in the 'Insecticides and bees' Q&A.

Dr Kevin Folta

Professor Kevin Folta

Kevin is associate professor and chair of the horticulture department at Florida University. He has been studying transgenic plant science and policy since 1998 and regularly gives talks and lectures about GM. His areas of research include functional genomics of small fruit crops, plant transformation, photomorphogenesis and flowering, and the genetic basis of flavours.

Dr Miriam Gifford

Dr Miriam Gifford

Miriam Gifford is Assistant Professor in the School of Life Sciences and the Systems Biology Centre at the University of Warwick.  Her research interests are in understanding how the many different cell types of the plant root together allow plants to be highly 'plastic' in their responses to changing environmental conditions. Focus areas are on understanding responses to variable nitrogen levels and how root development changes when plants work together to form symbioses with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil.

Dr Eleanor Gilroy

Dr Eleanor Gilroy

Dr Eleanor Gilroy is Molecular Plant Pathologist at the James Hutton Institute. Her current research interest is to exploit the potato genome to understand the dynamic between plant development and stress responses produced by living organisms and those not associated with living organisms. Her past research includes exploring the genome of the pathogen responsible for potato late blight, as well as the characterisation of genes in plant disease resistance. She has also taken part in various scientific outreach activities aimed at children and also the general public.

Dr Richard Harrington big

Dr Richard Harrington

Dr Richard Harrington has been interested in insects since the age of 7 when he accidentally caught a butterfly in a crab net and identified it as a large white (Pieris brassicae) from a Brooke Bond tea card he had acquired that morning. He graduated in Zoology and Applied Entomology at Imperial College and then hopped over the fence to the Natural History Museum where he did a PhD on sexual morph production in aphids. The day after his PhD grant finished he started work on aphids at Rothamsted Research, the World’s oldest and greatest agricultural research station, at Harpenden in Hertfordshire and has been there now for 34 years. He heads the Rothamsted Insect Survey (a BBSRC-supported “National Capability”) which runs trap networks providing long-term data on many insects, especially moths and aphids. These data are used in a wide range of fundamental and applied studies and are especially suited to statistical analyses of the impacts of climate change on seasonality, abundance and distribution. In 2008 he paid £20 for an aphid in amber which was advertised on eBay. It turned out to be an undescribed species and was named Mindarus harringtoni Heie. He is proud of having an old fossil named after him.

Sarah Harvey

Dr Sarah Harvey

Sarah is a research scientist in Life Sciences at the University of Warwick where she recently completed her PhD. Her main research interest is how plants defend themselves against disease, particularly that caused by fungus-like organisms called oomycetes. This group encompasses the causal agent of potato blight (Phytophora infestans). She is looking at how these pathogens infect their host plants and from this gaining insights into the plant immune system. It is thought that the better we understand plant immunity, the better we can protect our crops from pests and diseases in the future.

 

 

Dr Wendy Harwood

Dr Wendy Harwood

Dr Wendy Harwood is a Senior Scientist at the John Innes Centre, Norwich. Her group works on the genetic modification of crop plants, in particular wheat and barley and uses genetic modification as a tool to better understand genes important in the development of improved agricultural crops. Wendy’s group also works to improve the technology for genetic modification, to increase understanding of the genetic modification event, and to provide data for use in the safety assessment of GM crops. Wendy is active in science communication and she is an Honorary Lecturer at the University of East Anglia.

Wendy took part in the 'Cross pollination' and 'GM trials, super-weeds, and ecosystems' Q&As.

 

Dr Richard Haslam, nominated by Rothamsted Research.

Dr Richard Haslam

Dr Richard Haslam is a Senior Research Scientist at Rothamsted Research. His main interest is in plant metabolism specifically the modification of seed oils. Working in the emerging field of Lipidomics; that studies the pathways and networks of cellular lipids in biological systems on a large scale; he investigates the dynamics of cellular lipids and the changes that occur in plants during development or perturbation. With the evolution of sophisticated mass spectrometers linked to highly efficient liquid chromatography systems, individual molecular species of lipids can now be isolated and identified, providing a new window onto this most diverse family of chemicals.  Knowledge of how plants control lipid metabolism provides an opportunity to enhance human nutrition, as well as production of lubricants, detergents and chemical feedstock's in seeds.

Dr Ian Henderson

Dr Ian Henderson

Dr Ian Henderson is a Lecturer in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge. His primary research interest is genetic recombination within plant genomes. Previously he has worked at the University of California, Los Angeles and the John Innes Centre, Norwich on genetic and epigenetic inheritance in plants.

Dr Phil Howell

Dr Phil Howell

Phil has been a pivotal part of NIAB’s pre-breeding group since 2007. Since graduating from the University of Cambridge in 1992, he has over 20 years experience in crop improvement, dating back to a collaborative marker-assisted breeding project at the John Innes Centre, which led to his PhD in quantitative genetics. Following that he spent ten years working within Syngenta’s wheat breeding programme, including five years as their senior UK wheat breeder. Five of his varieties from this time were added to the HGCA Recommended List, and currently these still hold >10% market share. His wealth of practical experience and credibility amongst commercial peers have helped to cement NIAB’s position carrying out pre-competitive breeding research in cereals.

Phil took part in the 'What would your ideal ‘super wheat’ be?' Q&A.

Dr Alan Jones

Dr Alan Jones  

Alan studies how climate change affects plants and their habitats. Increasing carbon-dioxide levels alter the way plants grow and affect soil decomposition. Alan investigates these changes in the Arctic tundra and works out how this will affect our future climate. Alan is also the British Ecological Society representative on the UK Plant Sciences Federation Advisory Committee.

Professor Huw Jones

Professor Huw Jones

Professor Huw Jones is research leader of the Cereal Transformation Group at Rothamsted Research, Harpenden. He studies ways to develop genetic techniques to solve problems growing wheat and other cereals. Huw is also an honorary professor in the School of Biosciences, Nottingham University and a member of the GMO panel of EFSA (European Food Safety Authority).  

Huw took part in the 'Cross pollination' and 'Genes and testing of GM crops' Q&As.

Dr Robert Koebner

Dr Robert Koebner

Robert is a graduate in Agricultural Science from the University of Queensland (Australia) and a holder of a PhD from the University of Adelaide (Australia). For the 20 years from 1986-2006, he led a research programme at the PBI, which was relocated to the John Innes Centre (Norwich) in 1989, focussing on various aspects of wheat genetics, cytogenetics and the development and deployment of molecular markers in wheat research and breeding. Since 2006, Dr Koebner has worked as a consultant. His major current commitment is to the Kirkhouse Trust, a charity dedicated to supporting agricultural crop improvement research for the developing world. Its overarching objective is to strengthen and promote research skills in the developing world, and in particular, to deliver appropriate marker assisted selection to National Programmes in Africa. His first and foremost aspiration is to maximise the application of publicly-funded crop science research.

Robert took part in the 'What would your ideal ‘super wheat’ be?' Q&A.

Dr Smita Kurup

Dr Smita Kurup

Dr Smita Kurup is a plant developmental cell biologist. Her research focuses on the developmental biology of plants, specifically with regard to seed development. Using a range of techniques in developmental cell biology, live cell imaging and comparative genomics, she aims to resolve genes and mechanisms affecting seed development and associated traits affecting final seed composition in the model plant Arabidopsis and related brassica crop species.

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