People

 

Prof Ute Roessner

Prof Roessner has obtained her Diploma in Biochemistry at the University of Potsdam and the John Innes Institute in Norwich, UK after which she pursued a PhD in Plant Biochemistry at the Max-Planck-Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology in Germany, where she developed novel GC-MS methods to analyse metabolites in plants. Together with the application of sophisticated data mining, the field of metabolomics was born and is today an important tool in biological sciences, systems biology and biomarker discovery. In 2003 she moved to Australia where she established a GC-MS and LC-MS based metabolomics platform as part of the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics. In 2007, Prof Roessner has been involved in the setup of Metabolomics Australia (MA), a federal and state government funded national metabolomics service facility and has led the MA node at the University of Melbourne until 2019. Between 2014 and 2018, Prof Roessner held an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship to establish her own research program. In 2018, Prof Roessner took up the position as Head of School, School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne.

Current Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Robert Walker

Rob completed his PhD at Curtin University in 2013 in plant microbe interactions. After completion, he worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Watkin Lab at Curtin University studying the community profile of microbes inside rusticles from the historic shipwreck of the HMAS Sydney. After this, he worked at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California where he researched phosphate mobilization strategies of microbial communities along a natural nutrient gradient. After completion of this, he worked as a research officer at the Curtin Corrosion Industry Research Centre examining microbial populations that result in microbial influenced corrosion in the Oil and Gas industry.

Rob now works with plant associated soil microbes investigating the genetic pathways involved in iron and phosphate scavenging. He also works in collaboration with NutriField exploring fungal pathogens on Industrial Hemp in hydroponics. He currently supervises 6 PhD and 2 MSc students.

 

Sneha Gupta, PhD

Sneha completed her PhD at Melbourne University in 2020 working on the beneficial plant microbe interactions. Her work showed that the fungus Trichoderma harzianum T-22 enhances barley crop growth and nutrient uptake in saline conditions. The fungus symbiotically lives inside the roots and triggers beneficial biochemical and metabolic changes and the project has broad implications for applying plant-microbe interactions to agricultural productivity. With her expertise in plant biochemistry, plant physiology and root biology, she joined Roessner group as a postdoctoral fellow after completion. The current project she is working on, is in conjunction with international collaboration with Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH, Germany.

Sneha’s current goal is to gain the fundamental understanding of the spatial and temporal interplay of urease and nitrification inhibitors with plants and N uptake by roots to develop design principles for inhibitors with improved efficiency. These compounds will be tested by phenotyping N uptake by roots and shoots using a highly controlled plant growth system, with particular focus on Australian soils.

 

Current Postgraduate Researchers

 Mr. Pipob Suwanchaikasem (2019-2023)

I am studying on plant-microbe interactions between industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) and pathogenic fungi including Sclerotium rolfsiiFusarium sp., and Pythium sp. A new plant-growing system, called EcoFAB, is being developed to facilitate such a complicated study. Profiling techniques of metabolomics and proteomics have been applied to reveal biological pathways and immune activities that plant uses to counteract fungal invasion. Besides, imaging tools of mass spectrometry imaging and confocal microscope will be incorporated to get insight into the interactions.

 

 Mr. Martino Schillaci (2017-2021)

My PhD project focuses on the interaction between cereals and soil beneficial bacteria, and how it affects plant metabolism in suboptimal growing conditions. I am studying plant phenotype, transcriptome and metabolome at various stages of the interaction with the bacteria, to investigate how they change with time in an environment characterised by low temperatures and phosphorus deficiency.

 

Ms. Lisa Mau (2019-2023)

In my PhD project we bring together unicellular algae with wheat roots. Algal biomass contains nutrients, but unlike mineral fertilizer, in chemical forms that are not directly available to plants. We are using a mass-balance model to calculate phosphorus release by algae and uptake by roots. Over time, we monitor phenotypical effects as well as the metabolic changes in the plant. We aim to discover P recycling strategies for sustainable agriculture.

 

Ms. Sibel Yildirim (2019-2023)

I have always been interested in interdisciplinary and innovative scientific topics. In my PhD studies at The University of Melbourne, I aim to synthesise next generation nitrification inhibitors to increase nitrogen uptake in plants and improve their growth and beneficial use. My secondment at Forschungszentrum Juelich in Germany will give me the chance to further explore my inhibitor’s effect on model plants.

 

Ms. Allene Macabuhay (2018-2022)

Investigating the phenotypic changes and biochemical mechanisms behind the plant root and beneficial soil bacterial interaction under heat stress is the focus of my PhD research. Advanced high-throughput shoot and root phenotyping platform will be utilized to closely monitor plant growth promotion through time and Lipidomics technology to resolve the mechanisms underlying the phenotypic dynamics of root membrane stabilization by PGPR under heat stress.

 

Mrs. Cheka Khelepannala (2018-2022)

Many plant lipids and their functions remain unknown due to their structural complexity and difficulties in identifying them. My project is aimed at developing a comprehensive analytical workflow to identify and quantify lipids from Arabidopsis thaliana using targeted and untargeted lipidomics approaches aimed at developing an open-source in-silico lipid map of Arabidopsis tissues across development. Thereby we will improve our understanding of lipid biosynthetic pathways in plant growth and development.

 

Mr. Federico Martinez Seidel (2019-2023)

I am on ribosome heterogeneity and how it is not a mere way to secure enough ribosomes but rather an intricate mechanism to craft specialized ribosomal populations at the onset of stress as an example. The most important hypothesis being that the sub-populations are functional, and that entails that these ribosomes are able to translate subsets of transcripts.

 

Mrs. Tannaz Zare (2018-2022)

During my PhD project I will be investigating the functional roles of the genes which are involved in the oil biosynthesis of the emerging superfood Chia seed. In order to address my research questions, why and how Chia is producing such high amounts of omega fatty acids, I will be using modern molecular and biochemical techniques to decipher the function of the genes involved in oil biosynthesis in Chia.

 

Mr. Stefan Sanow (2019-2023)

During my PhD, I will investigate the plant growth promotion of Pseudomonas koreensis on Brachypodium Dystachion under limiting nitrogen conditions. I will couple phenotyping and protein molecular measurements after inoculation with a time-series approach to identify the earliest responses, post-translational modifications and proteins on the root microsomal fraction. Putting these data in context with lipidomics, will give further insight in the mechanistic understanding of the plant-microbe interaction under limiting nitrogen.

 

Current Masters Student

Mr. Carl Otto Pille (2019-2020)

Investigation into soil bacteria’s ability to solubilize and mineralize phytic acid in metal cation rich soils.

 

Honorary Fellows

Dr. Thusitha Rupasinghe

Dr. Berin Boughton

 

Recent PhD Graduates

 Bo Eng Cheong, PhD (2016-2020)

Bo Eng investigated the metabolomic traits of Australian wheat cultivars and the function of REIL proteins in Arabidopsis roots upon cold stress. REIL has been shown as a potential cold acclimation factor in yeast and Arabidopsis leaves. Lastly, she evaluated if the REIL homologs could be a potential cold acclimation factor in wheat. The information obtained from this study will be useful for the breeding of more cold-tolerant wheat cultivars in the future.

Dr. Dingyi Yu (2015-2019)

During his PhD, he first developed a robust lipidomics platform on HPLC-ESI-QqTOF to rapidly identify and quantify over 800 lipid species in barley.  Roles of a few lipids in barley roots resisting to salt stress were further revealed by using this platform. Two novel lipid classes were also discovered in different tissues of plants in the grass family. Preliminary investigation on their physiological roles are underway. After finishing PhD, he’s been working on AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) related metabolic regulation and signalling at St. Vincent Institute of Medical Research