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Department of Plant Sciences

 

Research group

 

Research overview

I’m interested in the biochemistry of microalgae, in particular vitamin and cofactor metabolism. My group works on characterising the biosynthetic pathways for these compounds, how the pathways have evolved and how they are regulated. We use a range of approaches including physiological studies, molecular biology and genomics, and the tools of synthetic biology and systems biology. The knowledge gained from these studies is being used to develop industrial biotechnology platforms for metabolic engineering of high value products in algae. In parallel, studies of symbiotic interactions between algae and bacteria for the exchange of vitamins are providing insights into algal communities in natural ecosystems. To facilitate translation of our scientific discoveries, we set up the Algal Innovation Centre, where we can test scale-up of some of these technologies to allow sustainable exploitation of microalgae, such as for remediation of waste streams and biomass production to increase nutritional value of food and feed. We interact with industry partners to bridge the gap between research and commercialisation in these sectors.
 

School of Biological Sciences theme affiliations

 

Previous positions

2017-present Head of Department, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
2014-2015 Acting Head of Department, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
2007-present Professor of Plant Biochemistry, University of Cambridge
2001-2007 Reader in Plant Metabolism, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
1989-2001 University Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
1984-1989 University Demonstrator/Assistant Lecturer, Department of Botany, University of Cambridge 
1984-present Fellow of Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge
1984-present Head of Group, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
1983-1984 Temporary Lecturer, Department of Botany, University of Cambridge
1981-1983 Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Botany, University of Cambridge
1981-1981 Promotions Assistant, Academic Press Inc, London
 

Qualifications

1978-1981 PhD in Biochemistry, University of Cambridge
1977-1978 MPhil Biochemistry, University of Cambridge
1974-1977 BSc Biochemistry, University of Bristol
 
 

Key publications

 
 
 
 
 

All publications

 

Awards and fellowships

  • Fellow of the Marine Biological Society of the UK, 2017
  • Fellow of Royal Society of Biology, 2012
  • Erskine Fellowship, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2009
  • Rebeiz Foundation for Basic Research, Best Paper Award, 2008
  • Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellowship, 2001
 

External Committees last 10 years

2015-present Board Member, NIAB
2013-present Monitoring Editor, Plant Physiology
2013-2014 Editorial Board Member, Journal of Biological Chemistry
2013-2014 Member, BBSRC People and Skills Expert Working Group
2012-2016 Member of Strategic Advisory Board for EU FP7 Projects GIAVAP and BIOFAT
2012-2016 Pool Member, BBSRC Responsive Mode Committees
2011-present University of Cambridge Governor, Council of Marine Biological Association of the UK
2011-2015 Member, BBSRC Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy Strategy Advisory Panel
2010-2013 UK Representative, European Energy Research Alliance
2010-2011 Member of Assessment Panel for BBSRC Enhancing Photosynthesis for Increased Productivity 
2008-2013 Member of the Strategy Board, InCrops Enterprise Hub, funded by EEDA/ERDA
2007-present Co-Editor, New Phytologist
2000-2015 Secretary of UK Tetrapyrrole Discussion Group
 

External Examining and Appointments Committees last 10 years

2021 UKRI IMP Panel
2016-2021 External Examiner, School of Biosciences, University of Durham
2016-2016 Member of Review Panel for Plant Science Centre, University of Copenhagen
2014-2014 Search Committee for Plant Sciences Faculty, Plant Sciences Centre, University of Copenhagen
2012 Member of Review Panel of International Max Planck Research School at Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany
1985-present External Examiner for 3-4 PhDs and MPhil degrees from UK and overseas universities annually, including University College London, Imperial College London, University of Queensland, Wageningen University, University of Kent, University of Delft and University of Copenhagen
 

University Committees last 10 years

2020-present Member, VC Financial Strategy Advisory Group
2019-present Member, International Strategy Committee
2017-2020 Chair, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Syndicate
2016-2017 Chair of General Board Teaching and Learning Review Committee, Department of Pathology
2014-present Core Member, Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment
2017-2019 Co-Director, Energy@Cambridge Interdisciplinary Research Centre
2013-2020 Member, Steering Committee of Energy@Cambridge Interdisciplinary Research Centre
2012-2018 Director, Cambridge BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership
2014-2015 Faculty of Biology Senior Academic Promotions Committee
2014-2015 Chair, Safety Committee, Department of Plant Sciences
2013-2014 Chair of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Syndicate
2013-present Member of pool of reviewers for University complaint and review procedures
2012-present Director of CambPlants, a knowledge-exchange hub for plant science research
2012-2013 Chair, Graduate Education Committee, Department of Plant Sciences
2011-present Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Syndicate
2011-2015 Member of University Energy and Carbon Reduction Project Board
2011-2012 Chair of General Board Teaching and Learning Review Committee, Department of Chemistry
2010-2015 General Board Representative of Faculty of Physics and Chemistry Senior Academic Promotions Committee
2009-2012 Representative of Biological Sciences on Gates Cambridge Trust and Cambridge Overseas/European Trusts
2009-2012 Faculty of Biology Senior Academic Promotions Committee
 

Public engagement

  • Cambridge Festival Event - Algae: Food for the future, introducing the algal species that could be a bigger part of your diet in the future, 2021
Head of the Department of Plant Sciences
Head of Plant Metabolism Group
Professor Alison  Smith

Contact Details

Email address: 
Department of Plant Sciences,
University of Cambridge,
Downing Street,
Cambridge,
CB2 3EA
01223 333952