School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Plant and Microbial Biology

Plant and Microbial Biology

Plant and Microbial Biology Research Group

Our Research

Our research centres on understanding cellular and molecular processes in plants and microbes. This helps us inform the redesign of biological/biochemical systems.

Gaining new insights

We gain new insights through projects involving:

  • genomics and bioinformatics
  • transcriptomics
  • proteomics
  • metabolomics
  • structural biology
  • biochemistry
  • glycobiology
  • metabolic and cellular networks
  • whole organism physiology

Our work informs the teaching we deliver to students in Biology.

Impact of our research

Our science has impact in three key areas:

  1. Enhancing resilience, productivity and quality of plants in natural and agricultural systems
  2. Biotechnological routes to novel materials and processes, and production of sustainable chemicals
  3. Systematics and evolution

Our researchers' work has featured in a variety of specialist publications.

One of our researchers looks at microbes under a microscope.
One of our researchers measures starch turnover in plant guard cells.


Our research themes help improve plant/crop yield and design new functional materials. They help us understand how plants and microbes evolve in changing environments.


We're working on a wide variety of projects across our three Plant and Microbial Biology research themes.


Published work that explores our research themes is featured across a wide variety of specialist publications.


Our teaching is delivered across undergraduate and postgraduate degrees within the School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.

Degrees we offer

Our staff lead the BSc Cell and Molecular Biology and the MSc Industrial and Commercial Biotechnology degrees. 

Diverse topics for students

We offer a diverse range of topics for BSc and MSc projects, some examples of which are shown below:

  • Understanding iron acquisition and storage in bacteria, protein engineering for materials-science applications, structural and biochemical studies of industrially relevant enzymes (Dr J Marles-Wright)
  • Metal resistance in microbial communities – safety in numbers?; Extremophiles – how far can life go?, Paralysis; food poisoning and Botox: the microbiology of the Clostridia; Herd immunity and vaccination – why are measles cases on the rise? (Dr A Graham)
  • Cas9/RED recombineering in E. coli; Gibson DNA assembly methods for synthetic biology; in vitro CRISPR/Cas9 for DNA modification; identification of peptide-PNA resistance mechanism; purification of novel adenylation domain proteins from Verrucosispora species; use of KEIO and ASKA E. coli collections to identify DNA condensation as a novel mode-of-action for antibacterials (Dr J Stach)
  • Engineering salt-tolerance in Arabidopsis thaliana using gene regulatory sequences from Thellungiella salsuginea; developing an RNAi mutant of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana to knock down a calcium dependent protein kinase suspected to control CAM induction (Dr T Taybi)
  • Investigating the microbial communities of biological soil crusts in semi-arid ecosystems by high-throughput phenotype microarrays; isolation and characterisation of plant growth-promoting actinobacteria from arid ecosystems; revealing the plant growth-promoting potential in the genus Chryseobacterium by genomics (Dr C Montero-Calasanz)
  • Novel approaches to the sustainable control of crop insect pests; impact of agricultural biotechnology on the growth and selection of grasslands in urban/recreational areas; animated teaching resources for biochemistry or molecular biology; development of a quantitative field diagnostic test for Septoria leaf blotch (Dr M Edwards)
Our biology students can enjoy a range of topics on the BSc Cell and Molecular Biology and the MSc Industrial and Commercial Biotechnology degrees.
Our biology students can enjoy a range of topics on our degrees.


Our researchers in Plant and Microbial Biology are respected experts across this diverse field of work.

Dr Vasilios Andriotis
Lecturer in Metabolic Biochemistry

Telephone: +44(0)1912 084510

Professor Jerry Barnes
Professor of Environmental Biology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4850

Professor Anne Borland
Professor of Plant Physiology and Research Group Head (Plant and Microbial Biology)

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4803

Dr Fiona Cuskin
Lecturer in Metabolic Biochemistry


Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5512

Professor Angharad MR Gatehouse
Professor of Invertebrate Molecular Biology

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8838

Emeritus Professor Michael Goodfellow
Senior Research Investigator

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7706

Dr Alison Graham
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 6946

Dr Ethan Hack
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8576

Dr Thomas Howard
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: 0191 2084854

Dr Maxim Kapralov
Senior Lecturer


Professor Hans-Peter Klenk
Professor of Microbial Genomics and Diversity

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 5138

Dr Jon Marles-Wright
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4855

Dr Maria Del Carmen Montero-Calasanz
Lecturer in Biology of Actinomycetes

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4943

Professor Frank Sargent
Associate Dean (Research & Innovation)

Telephone: 0191 20 85138

Dr James Stach
Senior Lecturer

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4813

Dr Tahar Taybi
Teaching Fellow

Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 7882

Telephone: 0191 208 3077

Professor William Willats
Prof of Molecular Agri-Diagnostics