Doctor Lily Chen

I received a Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours) from the University of Newcastle in 2015. Following this I began my PhD in 2016 at the Australian National University under the supervision of Professor Bob Furbank as part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis. My thesis was entitled The Source to Sink Journey in Setaria viridis: The Role of the Sugar Exporter SWEETs which I completed in 2020. My PhD involved understanding the function of sugar transporters known as SWEETs in the model C4 monocot species Setaria viridis. During this time, I learned a wide variety of experimental techniques of which this knowledge has been transferred to my current position as a postdoctoral fellow under the tutelage of Associate Professor Oula Ghannoum in 2021. This position at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment involves understanding the role C4 sensors and whether changing sensing can improve crop productivity. I am passionate about molecular biology and hope to contribute to building upon and strengthening this research field at the HIE. During my time here I would like to introduce synthetic biology and plant transformation (genetic modification) techniques, especially for monocot species which is currently severely lacking in Australia.

Areas of research/teaching expertise

My broad areas of research include sugar transporters, sugar signalling, C4 photosynthesis, and monocots. I’m primarily a molecular biologist with experience in cloning, RNA, plant transformation, microscopy, protein work, antibody design and enzymatic assays.

During my time as a PhD student I had experience as a laboratory practical demonstrator for molecular biology courses at the ANU. During these teaching experiences I took note of what students liked and did not like about the lab practicals which I’m hoping to translate into better experiences for undergraduate students. By helping to shape course content associated with molecular biology I think we can produce better students that might move onto undertaking a masters or PhD here at HIE.

Awards and recognition
  • 2019 – HDR Research School of Biology Best Conference Presentation (Runner-Up)
  • 2019 – Innovations in Agriculture for Food Security Conference Poster Award (First Place)
  • 2018 – ANU Vice Chancellor’s Travel Grant
  • 2016 – ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis PhD Top-Up Scholarship
  • 2016 – Australian Government Research Training Program (AGRTP) Stipend Scholarship for undertaking a PhD at The Australian National University

Benning UF, Chen L, Watson-Lazowski A, Henry C, Furbank RT, Ghannoum O, (2023) 'Spatial expression patterns of genes encoding sugar sensors in leaves of C4 and C3 grasses', Annals of botany, vol.131, no.6, pp 985-1000

Chen L, Ganguly DR, Shafik SH, Danila F, Grof CPL, Sharwood RE, Furbank RT, (2023) 'The role of SWEET4 proteins in the post-phloem sugar transport pathway of Setaria viridis sink tissues', Journal of Experimental Botany, vol.74, no.10, pp 2968-2986

Chen L, Ganguly DR, Shafik SH, Ermakova M, Pogson BJ, Grof CPL, Sharwood RE, Furbank RT, (2022) 'Elucidating the role of SWEET13 in phloem loading of the C4 grass Setaria viridis', The Plant Journal, vol.109, no.3, pp 615-632

McGaughey SA, Osborn HL, Chen L, Pegler JL, Tyerman SD, Furbank RT, Byrt CS, Grof CPL, (2016) 'Roles of aquaporins in Setaria viridis stem development and sugar storage', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol.7, Article no.1815