Research Supervisor Connect

Molecular genetics of plant development


Genes and gene networks involved in plant development.


Associate Professor Mary Byrne.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



Development and growth of a multicelluar organism from a single cell requires correct temporal and spatial regulation of cellular gene expression. Regulation of gene expression can be achieved by many mechanisms acting at the level of transcription, post-transcription, translation and/or post-translation. We are using molecular genetics to understand how genes and regulation of gene expression control plant development. We focus our research on plant shoot development, in particular on plant shoot meristem function and on leaf development. Plant shoot meristems contain a population of stem cells that enable  production of organs such as leaves and flowers. Plant shoot meristems are important for determining the spatial arrangement of leaves and the shape of leaves. Once a leaf is initiated, genes acting within different regions of the young leaf allow further patterning and eventual development of a flat planar organ that is specialized for photosynthesis.

The research in my lab is in two main areas (1) Identification of genes involved in shoot meristem function and leaf development by isolation and characterization of mutations disrupting these processes (2) Analysis of molecular mechanisms on how genes control development. Research project opportunities in these broad areas exist for PhD and Honours students. Depending on the specific research project, students will have an opportunity to gain practical and theoretical experience in molecular biology, genetics, gene expression analysis and developmental biology. Research approaches undertaken include molecular biology techniques, such as gene construct design and production, gene cloning, quantitative PCR; genetic analysis techniques such as generation of mutant combinations and plant transformation; techniques for analysis of gene expression such as the use of histochemical and fluorescent gene reporters; analysis of development through histology, scanning electron microscopy and confocal microscopy.

A background undergraduate knowledge of molecular biology and genetics is essential. Knowledge of plant development is desirable but not essential.

Additional information

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1298