Chemical design of new herbicides using structural guidance

With knowledge of the 3D structure of plant proteins, we are designing new types of herbicides

Weeds are a major issue for agriculture, responsible for a $2.5 billion annual loss in agricultural production. Herbicides control weeds and are vital, but widespread use has resulted in serious herbicide resistance issues.

There is therefore an urgent need for the discovery of new herbicides with new modes of action. Our lab in collaboration with the Mylne laboratory (also located at UWA) has found many new plant target proteins that have ‘druggable’ modes of action.

Synthesizing molecules against these potential target proteins, testing them in biochemical assays, obtaining 3D structural information with the protein of interest and testing the molecules on model plants opens a range of project possibilities.

As part of this project the successful PhD applicant will:
  • Make potential herbicide target compounds, progress them to biochemical assays and work with the Mylne Laboratory to obtain their 3D structural information and test the molecules on model plants.

Project goal:

  • To create completely new herbicides with new modes of action

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Research team leader: Associate Professor Keith Stubbs


I completed my undergraduate and PhD studies at UWA, followed by post-doctoral studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. I am currently an Associate Professor and my research interests are synthetic chemistry, carbohydrate chemistry and chemical- and glyco-biology. In addition in close collaboration with plant geneticist Joshua Mylne our lab is increasingly been investigating herbicide development and target discovery.

Collaborations and Funding



  • ARC Discovery Project DP190101048 “Putting new herbicide targets on the table” Mylne, Stubbs, Haywood, Maxwell; $516,000, 2019-2021
  • Nexgen-UWA Herbicide Partnership, Industry Project, 2019-2021 (sum undisclosed)


How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirements specific to this project:

  • Chemistry experience is desirable, but projects could also be tailored to someone with a more biochemistry-heavy background.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Scholarship specific to this project
  • Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC) Research Scholarship, a top up scholarship to the value of 75% of the base RTP plus $5,000 p.a. travel plus $10,000 p.a. operating budget
Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to Australian applicants for study in participating countries and regions.

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

The Australian Government's Endeavour Awards and Scholarships are available to international applicants from participating countries and regions.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.