Group members

Julian established his laboratory in the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Cambridge in 2001. Since then, nineteen post- doctoral researchers, nineteen PhD students, and five research assistants have been part of the lab. The group is currently seventeen-strong. Read more about them below.

Julian Hibberd

Julian did his PhD with John Farrar and Bob Whitbread at Bangor University. He then moved to post-doctoral positions with Julie Scholes, Paul Quick and Malcolm Press in Sheffield, and then John Gray in Cambridge. He started his own group in Cambridge while holding a BBSRC Sir David Phillips Fellowship. Julian’s interests in plant biology have focussed on various aspects of photosynthesis, but most work relates to the evolution and function of the C4 pathway.

Julian represented the photosynthesis and metabolism community from 2005-2012 on the Plant Section committee of the Society of Experimental Biology, and in 2013 was elected as a European Representative of the International Photosynthesis Society. He has served on numerous BBSRC committees, and from 2012-2022 was an Associate Editor of Plant Physiology. Julian is currently a team leader within both the C4 Rice Project, on the Management Board of the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University, and is Head of the Plant Sciences Department.

Current members

Post-Doctoral Research Associates

Lei Hua

Lei got his PhD in Crop Genetics and Breeding at China Agricultural University in 2015, during his PhD study, he identified and characterized a domestication gene controlling long and barbed awns from the progenitor of cultivated rice, common wild rice (Oryza rufipogon). Lei joined Hibberd lab in 2016; he is investigating the regulatory mechanisms of cell-specific gene expression in C3 leaves.

Tianshu Sun

Tianshu got her PhD in 2018 at Peking University, where she studied the genetic basis of adaptation to alpine environments in Arabidopsis thaliana populations in Tibet. Later, she worked as a research assistant at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science and focused on population genomics and transcriptomics in crop plants. She joined the Hibberd lab in November 2020 where she is currently investigating the regulation of photosynthesis gene expression variation at intra- and interspecific levels using genomics approaches such as eQTL-mapping and single-cell sequencing.

Caijin Chen

Caijin got her PhD in plant molecular genetics in 2021 in University of Aberdeen, UK, where she worked on genome-wide association mapping of salt tolerance and arsenic accumulation in rice. Caijin joined the Hibberd Lab in September 2021, she will be working to increase chloroplast content of rice bundle sheath cells to resemble more closely the bundle sheath of C4 leaves.

Eftychios Frangedakis

Eftychis did his PhD with Jane Langdale at the University of Oxford, working on plant evo-devo. He joined the Hibberd lab in March 2020. Here he is exploring synthetic biology approaches to increase the chloroplast compartment in Arabidopsis bundle sheath cells.

Patrick Dickinson

Patrick did his PhD with Phil Wigge at the Sainsbury Laboratory Cambridge University working on how plants sense temperature and how temperature is integrated with other environmental signals to control adaptive responses in Arabidopsis. This work found a role for chloroplast signalling in controlling diurnal patterns of thermotolerance. Since moving across Cambridge to the Hibberd lab in summer 2017, Patrick is working on how cell-type sepcific expression is controlled in Arabidopsis and how large increases in the expression of genes required for C4 photosynthesis have evolved using Arabidopsis and the C4 model species Gynandropsis gynandra.

Kumari Billakurthi

Kumari got her PhD in December 2018 from Heinrich Heine University, Germany. She had performed EMS mutagenesis and activation tagging screens in Arabidopsis thaliana and had analysed comparative transcriptomics of leaf developmental gradients from C3 and C4 Flaveria species to identify novel genes that determine C4 leaf anatomy. She then continued in the same group as a postdoctoral researcher until the end of 2019. In April 2020, she has joined the Hibberd’s group as a research associate to investigate how chloroplasts biogenesis is regulated by cell division patterns in rice (Oryza sativa) bundle sheath cells.

Tina B. Schreier

Tina did her PhD in plant biochemistry at ETH Zurich, and her main research interest lies in plant metabolism and photosynthesis. She joined the lab of Julian Hibberd in October 2018 as a Swiss National Science Foundation Research Fellow, studying cell-to-cell connectivity in leaves of the Cleome family and how this trait might have facilitated the evolution of C4 photosynthesis. During her PhD in the lab of Professor Sam Zeeman, she discovered two chloroplast proteins that were originally thought to act as enzymes play other important non-canonical roles. This includes the plastidial NAD-dependent malate dehydrogenase, where the protein but not the enzymatic activity is required for proper chloroplast development. After her PhD, she worked at the John Innes Centre in the group of Professor Alison Smith, studying transgenic wheat lines with altered carbohydrate metabolism in the grain.

Rohan Richard

Rohan got his PhD at the University of Reading in 2023 where he studied the stability of QTL associated to bread-making quality traits and conducted a QTL analysis on the trait Grain Protein Deviation (GPD) in wheat. He also investigated the senescence dynamic in the mapping population and performed a QTL detection for senescence traits. Since April 2023, he is hosted joinly by the Hibberd and Kromdijk labs where he is finalizing the development of a Cleome gynandra mapping population and carrying out association analysis on C. gynandra photosynthetic traits.

PhD students

Anoop Tripathi

Anoop is Gates Cambridge PhD Scholar working on various aspects of grafting and somatic hybridization. Prior to this, he worked as a Senior Research Technician in the Hibberd lab where he was involved in establishing the method of monocot grafting which overturned the long-standing consensus that monocots cannot graft. Back in India he worked as a Senior Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR), New Delhi, where his research focused on understanding the gene regulatory networks in cereal crops. He has a Masters in Biochemistry from the University of Lucknow, India.

Masters Students

Becca Testa

Becca completed her undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, specialising in Plant Sciences in her final year and graduating in June 2022. She joined the Hibberd lab in September 2022 as an MPhil student, where she is currently investigating chloroplast positioning in bundle sheath cells of C4 plant Gynandropsis gynandra.

Zara Guppy

Zara did her undergrad at the University of Cambridge, specialising in plant sciences, before starting her masters in the Hibberd lab in October 2022. Here she is looking at understanding the regulation of bundle sheath specific genes in C3 Arabidopsis and developing a cell-specific reporter for promoter studies based on the betalain synthesis pathway.

Research staff

Susan Stanley

Susan is in charge of keeping the lab running! She has been instrumental in developing the transformation pipeline that we use for Gynandropsis gynandra. She is also responsible for plant and seed stock maintenance, ordering lab stocks, and time permiting, helps with specific research projects in the lab. She joined the lab in 2000 after having worked in Industry.

Na Wang

Na did her MSc in Plant Genetics and Breeding at CAU (China Agricultural University), then she went to Biotech center of Beijing Da Bei Nong Technology Group Co. Ltd., she got 5 year rich experience of cereal genetic transformation there. She joined the Hibberd lab in 2017 as a research technician.

Ruth Donald

Ruth has a PhD in Plant Biochemistry from the University of Warwick where she studied the targeting of chloroplast proteins into the thylakoid membrane and found that multiple pathways exist. She then went to a postdoctoral post at the University of Auckland, before coming to Plant Sciences Cambridge work on the import, assembly and turn-over of chloroplast proteins in John Gray’s lab, and then as a Royal Society Research Fellow. Since then she has worked at Biogemma on useful oil production in oilseed rape and screening of wheat cultivars for marker-gene trait associations, and has also worked for Syngene. She returned to Plant Sciences in May 2017, joining the Hibberd lab to work on crop transformation.

Alexandros Fragkidis

Alexandros completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Leeds in June 2023. In his final year project, he identified proteins part of repressive complexes in Arabidopsis. He joined Hibberd lab as a lab technician in August 2023 and his main interest will be the optimisation of date palm grafting.

Past members

Former PhD students

- Britta Kümpers: Analysis of C4 photosynthesis using Flaveria
- Richard Smith: Computational analysis of C4
- Chris John: Comparative transcriptomics of C4
- Helen Woodfield: Engineering C4 genes into C3 species
- Ben Williams: Mechanisms underlying the coordinated evolution of multiple C4 genes
- Maria Herse: Crop improvement using synthetic variation
- Ewan Gage: The role of small RNAs in C4 photosynthesis
- Ben Tolley: Oat maize addition lines
- Kaisa Kajala: Regulation of gene expression in C4 plants
- Holly Astley: The role of PPDK regulatory proteins in C3 plants
- Anna Leiss: The function of PEPCK in C3 plants
- Lucy Taylor: The role of PPDK in nitrogen remobilisation
- Sophie Janacek: Understanding the role of photosynthesis in veins of C3 plants
- Diana Marshall: Using Cleome to understand C4 photosynthesis
- Meredith Wilson: Genome structure and function in parasitic angiosperms
- Jana Knerova: BS cell-specific expression of C3 and C4 plants
- Ivan Reyna-Llorens: Transcriptional regulations of the C4 pathway
- Greg Reeves: Investigating the genetic basis for C4 photosynthesis from natural variation among C4 plants and developing a method to graft monocot plants
- Robyn Phillips: Activating photosynthesis in non-photosynthetic cells for improved crop productivity
- Zhengao Di:Engineering a reverse C4 photosynthetic pathway in C3 species Arabidopsis thaliana
- Conor Simpson: Understanding C4 photosynthesis through quantitative genetics

Former Post-Doctoral Research Associates

- Dr. Sarah Covshoff: C4 rice
- Dr. Sylvain Aubry: Molecular signature of the C4 phenotype
- Dr. Naomi Brown: Role of C4 acid decarboxylases
- Dr. Kate Parsley: Role and regulation of PPDK
- Dr. Alex Johnson: Rice enhancer traps
- Dr. Zheng Liu: Developing Cleome as a model
- Dr. Elisabeth Truernit: Chloroplast isolation from specific cell types
- Dr. Steven Burgess: Gene regulation of C4 photosynthesis in Cleome
- Dr. Marek Szecowka: Using artificial scaffolds to increase photosynthetic efficiency in C3 plants
- Dr. Ming-Tsung Louis Wu: Large-scale modeling analysis of C4 photosynthesis using de novo transcriptomics.
- Dr. Andy Plackett: Understanding differential regulation of chloroplast development between mesophyll and bundle sheath cells in rice (Oryza sativa).
- Dr. Ahmed Ismail: Understanding the genetic basis of C4 photosynthesis during leaf development in rice and sorghum. Read more here
- Dr. Ivan Reyna-Llorens: Transcriptional regulations of the C4 pathway
- Dr. Sherif El-Sharnouby
- Dr. Haiyan Xiong: The regulatory mechanism of light stress response in rice bundle sheath cells
- Dr. Greg Reeves: Investigating the genetic basis for C4 photosynthesis from natural variation among C4 plants and developing a method to graft monocot plants
- Dr. Natasha Elina: Understanding the assembly of the photosynthetic apparatus to induce chloroplast development in non-green cells
- Dr. Pallavi Singh: Elucidating the spectrum of regulatory networks governing the evolution of C4 photosynthesis
- Dr. Sean Stevenson: Using the bryophyte model (Marchantia) to study light signalling and regulation and how this is integrated in early plant development and photosynthesis
- Dr. Leonie Luginbuehl: Understanding the cell type specific regulation of photosynthetic capacity in rice leaves
- Dr. Conor Simpson: High-throughput phenotyping of vein density and genetic assessment of a MAGIC C4 Gynandropsis gynandra population
- Dr. Zhengao Di: Engineering a reverse C4 photosynthetic pathway in C3 species Arabidopsis thaliana
- Dr. Lee Cackett: Identifying and characterising candidate genes which control rice bundle sheath chloroplast development

Former Research Staff

- Dr. Satish Kumar Eeda: C4 rice
- Mathieu Grangé-Guerment: C4 rice
- Chris Boursnell: Wild Rice MAGIC project and de novo transcriptome assembly