Winthrop Professor Steven Smith

The University of Western Australia
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Winthrop Professor Steven Smith was raised in the UK and obtained degrees from the Universities of Leicester (UK), Indiana (USA) and Warwick (UK). He has been employed in research institutes in both the UK (Rothamsted Research, John Innes Centre) and Australia (CSIRO Plant Industry), but spent most of his academic career at the University of Edinburgh where he became Head of the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences. He has served the scientific community in numerous ways including coordination of pan-European research programs, acting as External Examiner at Ngee Ann Polytechnic Singapore and as Teaching Quality Assessor for the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council. He has received awards of four prestigious fellowships: NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship (1980) Fellowship of the Institute of Biology (1999) Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2003) Australian Research Council Federation Fellowship (2004). The latter award took him to the University of Western Australia in 2005, as Professor of Plant Genomics. Winthrop Professor Steven Smith has a proven record of highly original, pioneering research. He isolated the first-ever cDNA sequence encoding a plant enzyme (Nature, 1979, 1980), opening the door to the plant biotechnology revolution. This was followed by several other 'firsts' in gene cloning and analysis. In 1990 he conceived of the concept of measuring and visualizing calcium fluxes in living cells using the calcium-responsive luminous protein aequorin, from jellyfish. He carried out the gene cloning and plant genetic manipulation that made this revolutionary technique possible (Nature, 1991; PNAS, 1992). He discovered that an unusual plant enzyme could make a novel molecule, which was called cycloamylose (JBC, 1996). Cycloamylose has subsequently been used in the food and chemical industries. The structure of cycloamylose at atomic resolution revealed a totally unexpected 'band-flip' configuration which could explain how amylose folds in starch granules (PNAS, 1999). In the late 1990s he pioneered reverse genetics approaches ('knock-out' technology) in Arabidopsis to study plant energy metabolism. This resulted in the publication of several seminal papers in this area (eg Plant Journal, 2000, 2001; PNAS, 2000; JBC, 2004; The Plant Cell, 2005). Modification of some of these metabolic processes has led to the redirection of carbon and energy resources within the plant. Such discoveries have the potential for improving plant productivity and quality for the benefit of food, materials and energy industries. Currently he is a chief investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence Plant Energy Biology.

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Contact Information

Street Address:
Plant Energy Biology, ARC Centre of Excellence The University of Western Australia (M310) 35 Stirling Highway CRAWLEY WA 6009 Australia
Ph: (+61 8) 6488 4403