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Principal Investigators

The research agenda of the UCD Centre for Plant Science is driven predominantly by the Principal Investigators and is supported by Post Doctoral Researchers, Research and Technical Staff. There are also a number of Affiliated Research Students.

Professor James Burke

UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science

James Burke is Professor of Crop Science and holder of the Agrii Chair of Crop Science at University College Dublin. Prior to joining UCD he was Head of the Teagasc, National Crops Research Centre, at Oak Park, Carlow. During his time in Teagasc he also held various other positions such as Chief Crops Scientist, Head of the Crop Science Department, Co-ordinator of sugar beet research, and programme leader for crops, horticulture and forestry. He also worked for a number of years at the University of California at Davis, USA, and returned to Ireland to take up a post as a plant physiologist /agronomist with the Agricultural Institute.

His major interests include: the agronomy and physiology of arable crops and the development of physiological growth models for the simulation of plant growth and development, plant response to environmental stress and climate change as well as development of new biotechnological approaches for plant improvement and bioenergy.

He has published in various scientific journals, written book chapters, and co-authored a textbook on Biotechnology and has written many national reports pertaining to agriculture. He was the Irish representative on various EU research committees and has also served on many boards and advisory committees relating to agriculture, biotechnology and bioenergy. He has a close working relationship with many national and international research centres and has participated in several collaborative research projects. He has been a member of many international peer review assessment panels and a member of visiting expert groups focusing on research strategy and research prioritisation.

Professor Fiona Doohan

UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science, UCD Earth Institute

Fiona Doohan studied Microbiology at University College Dublin and Plant Pathology at John Innes Centre (PhD, 1998). After a postdoc at John Innes, she moved to UCD where she was appointed College Lecturer in Molecular Plant Pathology. In 2014 she was appointed as Associate Professor in UCD. Fiona has led various UCD and National Scientific Developments, including a national doctoral training programme on Earth and Natural Sciences. Her "favourite" disease is Fusarium head blight of wheat, closely followed by Septoria tritici blotch of wheat. Her team are focused on identifying genes that facilitate disease resistance breeding, endophytes that enhance plant disease resistance and technologies that facilitate genetic engineering of plants. Fiona leads the CEREALPATH ETN training programme.

Dr Owen Doyle

UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science

Dr Owen Doyle has a primary degree in Commercial Horticulture and a PhD in Plant Pathology. He is a Chartered Horticulturist and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture (Great Britain and Ireland). He is Head of Horticulture, Landscape and Sportturf Management at UCD and his research interests are in the recovery, recycling and re-use of plant nutrients, from industrial, agricultural and waste management processes for inclusion into peat reduced or peat free plant growing media. In addition to assessing shoot growth parameters he is interested in the effects of growing media nutrient and physical composition on plant root and shoot architecture. He specialises in applied industry/academic research.

Dr Caroline Elliott-Kingston

UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science

Caroline Elliott-Kingston studied Horticulture at National Botanic Gardens Dublin and Botany at University College Dublin, followed by a PhD in stomatal function (2011). Following a postdoc in plant reproduction, she was appointed Lecturer in Horticulture and Crop Physiology at UCD in 2016. Caroline's interest centres on how environmental variables such as light, temperature, water vapour pressure deficit, CO2 and ethylene during growth influence plant stomatal response (number of stomata and control of closing) after harvest which impacts post-harvest quality and storability of food. She is particularly interested in pursuing new research into how these environmental variables can be manipulated to improve protein content in plant-based foods.

Dr Angela Feechan

UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science

Angela moved to Ireland in 2013 where she is a lecturer in crop science at University College Dublin. This move was facilitated by receiving an FP7 Marie Curie Career Integration Grant. Her research interest is in molecular plant-microbe interactions, particularly how fungal pathogens are able to overcome plant immunity to gain entry to the plant host.

Angela was educated at the University of Edinburgh, UK (PhD, 2005). She then moved to Copenhagen University, Denmark as a post-doc and subsequently CSIRO, Australia where she was a research scientist working on resistance strategies to the plant pathogen powdery mildew.

Currently her research group is focussed on the fungal pathogen of wheat Zymoseptoria tritici.

Dr Mary Forrest

UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science

Mary Forrest was educated at the National Botanic Gardens, University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. Following graduation from UCD she was appointed Heritage Gardens Fellow by An Taisce, to prepare an inventory of trees and shrubs in exotic plant collections in Ireland. This work was subsequently published as Trees and Shrubs cultivated in Ireland. She then became Head gardener at Glenveagh National Park, Co. Donegal. She was appointed lecturer in UCD in 1986 where she has since taught courses in Landscape Management, landscape trees and shrubs, garden history and Fundamentals of Horticulture to students taking degrees in Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.

Her research interests include history of designed landscapes in Ireland, cut foliage production, urban forestry and e-learning in horticultural education.

Dr Wieland Fricke

UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science

Wieland studied Biology at the Justus-Liebig University (JLU) Giessen from 1982-1987, having studied the first semester at the nearby Phillips-University Marburg. After obtaining his Diploma in Biology (1987; subject area of thesis was Plant Physiology) and his PhD in Botany/Plant Physiology (1991, supervisor Prof. Edwin Pahlich, JLU), he started his first post-doctoral position in Bangor, University of Wales, UK (1992-1995, Profs Deri Tomos and Roger A Leigh). He then spent two years as guest researcher at the Swedish Agricultural University, Uppsala (1995-1996, Dr. Jim McDonald) and almost one year at Sussex University, England (Prof. Tim Flowers). In 1997, he took up his first full-time lecturing position at University of Paisley, Scotland, where he worked for nine years, the last four years as Reader.

In 2006, he took on his current post at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland, where he works full-time as Lecturer in Botany.

Research-wise, he sees himself as a plant physiologist who uses a combined molecular and biophysical approach to address through functional and experimental studies plant physiological processes at organism, tissue and cell level. This applies in particular to the research areas plant water and solute relations, leaf cell expansion, root water uptake, and stress tolerance (salinity, mineral nutrition).

Dr Julio Isidro Sánchez

UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science

Julio Isidro is a Crop Science Lecturer at the Animal and Crop Science section of UCD. Julio's background is in plant breeding and crop physiology. His PhD was focused on the role of breeding on physiological traits of durum wheat under Mediterranean conditions. He did a post-doc in Canada working with Dr Ron Knox, Ron DePauw and Danny Singh on the genetic role of Brassinosteroid to improve wheat biomass.

Before moving to UCD, Julio was working on optimization of the training population on genomic selection with Dr Mark Sorrells and Jean-Luc Jannink at Cornell's University. Julio's has expertise on the implementation of genomic selection to improve genetic gain in small grains for the improvement of yield, nutritional traits, abiotic stress, and disease resistance. He is also interested on phenomics, crop water and nutrient uptake and utilization, agronomic practices and the development of molecular markers and their application towards cultivar development.

Dr Bridget Lynch

UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science

Bridget Lynch is a researcher in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and runs a number of projects through Lyons Farm which include forage maize production, evaluation of forage maize for livestock production, alternative pasture species, evaluation of multi-species swards for livestock systems, grazing management for higher input dairy production and knowledge transfer of grassland science.

Dr Paul McCabe

UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science

Paul McCabe is a Senior Lecturer and Head of Botany at the UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science. He is also Director of Plant Biology Degree Programme at the School.

Paul holds a PhD in chloroplast genetics from Maynooth University, where he worked under the direction of Professor Philip Dix at the Department of Botany.

Before taking up his current post at UCD, he worked as a research scientist and post-doctoral research fellow in Europe and the United States.

His current research portfolio includes the regulation of programmed cell death in plants, the role of cell-cell signalling molecules in controlling plant embryogenesis, production of high value compounds from plant cell cultures and horticultural plant breeding.

Dr Tomás McCabe

UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science

Dr Tom McCabe is a researcher and lecturer in the UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science and runs a number of projects through Lyons Farm which include crop protection and crop nutrition studies in cereal crops. Dr McCabe has a primary degree in General Agriculture and a PhD in Crop Agronomy. His research interests are in crop protection and crop nutrition studies in cereal crops. He has a particular interest in the evaluation of fungicide strategies to control wet weather diseases in wheat and barley. He also works on crop nutrition programmes for cereal, grassland and other field crops, including the use of N sensor technology to optimise N nutrition in a range of field crops. His research also involves the evaluation of novel practices to increase utilisation, and to minimise environmental losses, of organic N sources in crop production. He specialises in applied industry/academic research.

Professor Jennifer McElwain

UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science

Jennifer McElwain is a research leader in Earth system science and plant biology. She is an Associate Professor of University College Dublin's School of Biology and Environmental Science, member of the UCDs Earth Institute and Director of the Programme for Experimental Atmospheres and Climate (PEAC) facility. Over the past 20 years her research and teaching have focused on the development and use of palaeobiological proxies to understand the evolution of Earth's atmosphere and climate on multimillion year timescales and how fluctuations in both have influenced large scale patterns in plant evolution and ecology. She is a member of the Mary Robinson Climate Justice Foundation board of directors and a regular expert evaluator and environment panel member of Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska Curie Programmes. She is an ERC awardee and Science Foundation PI.

Dr Rainer Melzer

UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science

Rainer Melzer studied Biology at the University of Jena, Germany and obtained his PhD in 2009 under the supervision of Günter Theißen . After working at the Universities of Jena and Leipzig, he was appointed to his current position at UCD in 2015.

The overarching question of his research agenda is how the molecular machinery of organisms determines their development, evolution and diversity. Since moving to UCD, he began to establish a research team to expand his work on plant development and reproduction, with a particular focus on crop plants with the primary aim to improve yield and quality of cereals.

He is very interested in reproductive plant development, MADS-box genes and transcription factor functions. He has made a number of contributions to the biophysics of protein-DNA interactions, the evolution of protein-protein interactions and plant-pathogen relationships.

Dr Carl Ng

UCD School of Biology and Environmental Science

Carl Ng studied Botany (BSc Hons, 1995) and Plant Physiology (MSc, 1997) at the National University of Singapore, and Plant Cell Biology at University of Lancaster (PhD, 2001). After a postdoc at The Pennsylvania State University, he moved to UCD and is currently leading the Plant Cell and Molecular Biology group. His research is focused on understanding the signalling processes underlying responses of plants and crops to abiotic stresses.

Dr Saoirse Tracy

UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science

Saoirse Tracy is a Lecturer in Applied Plant Biology at UCD. She has previously worked at the University of Nottingham in the Hounsfield Facility for Rhizosphere Research. Her research research interests include using X-ray Computed Tomography (CT) to understand the response of roots to the soil physical environment. During her PhD, she investigated the response of root system architecture to soil compaction. Her postdoctoral project allowed her to investigate the distribution of water in the soil and water uptake by roots using new techniques and image analysis regimes. Collaboration with mathematical modellers allows her experimental data to feed directly into models being developed based on hydraulic movement of water in soil. During her PhD and post-doctoral research, she worked closely with computer scientists using novel methods to answer biological questions. A key area of interested to her is food security and the role soil science, plant phenotyping and novel techniques from interdisciplinary areas have in meeting these challenges. Her plan is to apply her skills and experience of X-ray CT, soil science, hydrology, plant biology and image analysis to answer further questions about the rhizosphere and plant function.