The University of Western Australia

UWA Staff Profile

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Ian Small

Professor Ian Small

Chief Investigator
Plant Energy Biology, ARC Centre of Excellence

Contact details
Plant Energy Biology, ARC Centre of Excellence
The University of Western Australia (M316)
35 Stirling Highway
6488 4499
Room 4.73, Bayliss Building, Crawley campus
BA Cantab., PhD Edin.
Ian Small's PhD at Edinburgh University (awarded in 1988) was followed by a career with France's National Agronomy Research Institute (INRA) first as a postdoc and later as a tenured research scientist. He held the Vice-Director position at the Plant Genetics & Breeding Station in Versailles and the Plant Genomics Unit in Evry. In 2005 he was awarded a WA State Premier's Research Fellowship and moved to Perth to become the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology early in 2006.
Key research
Ian's PhD work on plant mitochondrial genomes (EMBO Journal, 1988; Cell, 1989) changed the way we view their evolution, revealing unsuspected dynamic changes that are only now being understood. Building on these discoveries, his post-doctoral work on mitochondrial genes involved in cytoplasmic male sterility (Molecular and General Genetics, 1992) contributed significantly to the development, patenting and commercialisation of INRA's technology for male-sterile brassicas used in the breeding of elite hybrid lines. Much of the canola grown globally is now produced using this technology.
Ian's research has focused on the cellular machinery involved in translating messenger RNAs into proteins (The Plant Cell, 1996; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2005), and on the transport of RNA and proteins into organelles (EMBO Journal, 1992). However, his research interests evolved rapidly to take advantage of the functional genomics technology emerging from the sequencing of the Arabidopsis nuclear genome. He coordinated the large European Union Framework 5 project, AGRIKOLA, that has provided unparalleled tools to the scientific community for analysing gene function in Arabidopsis (Genome Research, 2004) by the exciting new technology of RNA interference. He is perhaps best-known for the discovery and characterisation of the pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) family of proteins, a huge family of 450 proteins involved in controlling gene expression in mitochondria and chloroplasts (Trends in Biochemical Sciences, 2000; The Plant Cell, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009).
Roles, responsibilities and expertise
Director, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology
Expertise: molecular biology, systems biology, bioinformatics
Future research
Energy biology in plant cells
Funding received
Current grants:

$22.3 million from the ARC for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, 2005-2013
$400,000 from DIISR International Science Linkage
Fluent in English, French
Honours and awards
WA State Premier's Fellow, 2006-2010
Previous positions
Directeur de Recherche, INRA
Current external positions
Chairman, Scientific Advisory Board, Max-Planck-Institut of Molecular Plant Physiology, Golm, Germany
Useful links
Research profile
Research profile and publications

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Last updated:
Monday, 1 October, 2012 4:15 PM