Professor Jim Whelan

Director, Research Focus Area, Securing Food, Water and the Environment, La Trobe University;

Chief Investigator in ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology

Professor, Department of Plant and Animal Sciences, School of Life Science, La Trobe University.

Heading a lab based at the internationally recognised AgriBio, Centre for Agricultural Bioscience facility within La Trobe's Melbourne Campus, Prof Whelan's extensive career highlights include more than seven thousand citations for his hundreds of published articles, which have focused on his research on plant energy metabolism.

His accomplishments throughout his successful career have resulted in international awards such as the Alexander Von Humboldt Fellowship, recognised as one of the most highly cited and influential authors by the American Society of Plant Biology. Prof Whelan played an important role in establishing the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, as well as holding the position of Co-Director, AgriBio.

Expand Staff Profile

Oliver Berkowitz

Research Fellow

Oliver completed his PhD in 2003 at the IPK Gatersleben in Germany before working for six years at the Australian National University in Canberra on root physiology in wheat. He then moved to The University of Western Australia to investigate plant defence responses. In 2013 Oliver became a member of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology where his research analysed bud development in grape. In 2015 he joined the centre node at La Trobe. His current research focus is the application of next-generation sequencing technologies to analyse mitochondrial function and plant responses to abiotic stress.

Ricarda Jost

Research Fellow

After obtaining her PhD in 2001, Ricarda worked in the German Plant Sulfur Group at the IPK in Gatersleben. In 2003, she moved to the Australian National University to work on early drought responses in wheat. In 2008, she started to study plant adaptation to low phosphorus environments at the University of Western Australia. A keen interest in plant nutrition and associated cellular signalling networks attracted her to the La Trobe node of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology in 2015. Her overall aim is to study local plant adaptation to low nutrient availability and to improve nutrient utilisation in crop plants.

Yan Wang

Research Associate

Since completing her PhD, Biochemistry and Molecular biology, Yan has worked as a Research Associate in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Plant Energy Biology, at the Australia Research Council Centre of Excellence, University of Western Australia. In 2014, Yan was employed by La Trobe University to research mitochondrial retrograde signalling.

Jennifer Selinski

Research Fellow

Jennifer comes to La Trobe from Germany, where she completed her Studies in Biology Diploma in 2010 followed by her Ph.D. in Plant Physiology in 2014 both at Osnabrueck University. She has been awarded scholarships for her studies from both universities and government bodies in Germany.

Her research focuses on the analysis of poising mechanisms which balance the ATP/NAD(P)H ratio, maintain redox homeostasis, and therefore counteract the generation of reactive oxygen species in plant cells. She is especially interested in isoform-specific functions of mitochondrial alternative oxidases (AOX), and malate dehydrogenases (MDHs).

Reena Narsai

Research Fellow

Reena’s research interests lie in using the latest technologies and molecular approaches, including next generation sequencing, to find how mitochondria regulate germination success and progression in rice. She sees how manipulating these pathways could alter germination progression and timing, and how they can have extensive agricultural implications in the improvement of crop productivity. In 2016 she was awarded a DECRA fellowship to continue her research.

Joshua Linn

PhD Student

Joshua commenced his PhD working in the laboratory of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, at University of Western Australia before moving in 2013 to the Melbourne node of the Centre, at AgriBio, La Trobe University. He is continuing his PhD work with the aim to identify and characterise novel regulators that spatially mediate phosphate metabolism in Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis).

Marina Borges Osorio

PhD Student

Marina hails from Brazil, where her studies focused on plant molecular biology research. She came to La Trobe University in 2014 on a full fee research scholarship (LTUFFRS) where her research has involved plant phosphorus nutrition.

Wenhui Lyu

PhD Student

Wenhui came from China to commence her PhD at La Trobe University. Her research focus is on the identification and characterization of functional genomics of proteins involved in Mitochondrial Signaling in Arabidopsis thaliana with the overall aim of gaining more insight into the components that regulate Nuclear Genes Mitochondrial Proteins (NGMP).

Andreas Hartmann

PhD Student

Andreas graduated from the University of Osnabrueck (Germany) in 2015 with a Masters of Science Biology. He commenced his PhD in the Whelan Lab mid-2016 on a La Trobe full fee research scholarship (LTUFFRS). Andreas is building on his masters research which looked into the isoform specific regulation of the alternative Oxidase with his PhD focusing on the mitochondrial retrograde response in the monocot plants of rice and barley.

Meiyan Ren

PhD Student

Meiyan obtained her Masters degree at the University of Zhejiang. She is currently working on the Molecular characterization of the role of CBL-CIPK phosphorylation in phosphorus signalling networks.

Changyu (Joe) Yi

PhD Student

Changyu completed his Masters degree in horticulture in China where he studied the effects of CO2 enrichment on salt tolerance in tomato. For his work, Changyu received the 2014 Zhejiang University Meritorious Student Award, Outstanding Graduate Student. He is currently working on uncovering the detailed molecular characterisation of individual members of the AOX (alternative oxidase) family and identify adaptive traits to low phosphorus availability in 200+ Arabidopsis accessions.

Lu Li

PhD Student

Lu obtained her Master degree at Zhejiang University in China. Her current research involves the functional characterization of proteins involved in mitochondrial signaling, and the role these proteins have in determining responses to stress conditions.

Xiang Meng

PhD Student

Xiang obtained his Master degree from the Zhejiang University in China where he worked on the uptake and use of phosphorus in watermelons under low phosphorus stress. His research at La Trobe University involves the characteristics of stress responses using mitochondrial mutants in Arabidopsis.

Asha Haslem

Research Officer

Asha completed her Bachelor of Science (Biological) degree at La Trobe University in 2000 majoring in Microbiology and Genetics. Her employment includes establishing and validating molecular tests in leukaemia patients at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne and working at Australian Genome Research Facility in the Next-Generation Sequencing division. In 2016, Asha returned to La Trobe University as a research officer to provide technical support for the La Trobe Genomics Platform.

Yue Xu

Research Officer

Yue completed his PhD in Plant Molecular Biology at La Trobe in 2013. He has recently joined the La Trobe node of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology where he works in the Whelan Lab continuing his post-doctoral project research on investigating the regulation of gene expression by manipulating transcriptional repressor activity. His current research focus is on investigating signal pathways upon mitochondrial stresses and with the aim to establish the overall regulatory profiles of the mitochondrial dysfunction stimulated genes on a global scale using the chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) techniques.

Lim Chee Liew

Research Officer

Lim Chee was awarded a PhD in Plant Molecular Biology in 2011, which then led her to Postdoctoral Fellowships at University of Melbourne from 2012-2016. Her current project work involves investigating tissue specific regulation of gene expression in barley seeds using laser capture microdissection and high throughput chromatin sequencing approaches. Lim Chee is a joint appointment with Dr Mathew Lewsey's laboratory.

Xishi Zhou

PhD Student

Xishi obtained her Masters and completed her first year of her PhD at the College of Life Sciences, Nanjing Agricultural University, China. Her current work in the Whelan Lab involves identifying adaptive traits to low phosphate ability in different Arabidopsis accessions and investigating how plants can more efficiently utilize phosphate.

Yinan Wang


Yinan completed her PhD in Bioinformatics at Institute of Developmental and Genetics Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2012. She then worked as a research assistant at Shanghai Jiao Tong University while also working as a NGS specialist at Shanghai genome Pilot technology Inc. In 2014, she was employed at Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra. Yinan's current role at La Trobe provides bioinformatics support for Genomics Platform. Her specialty includes RNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq, genotyping and variant calling.

Diego Lozano

Research Officer

Diego completed his undergraduate studies at Surcolombiana University and a Master of Telecommunications and Network Engineering at La Trobe. He works in both the Whelan and Lewsey Labs at AgriBio where he is developing a Smart High Throughput Phenotyping System (SHTPS) that it will create comprehensive, multi‐dimensional phenotypical models. The aim of his research is to integrate a stereo multi-camera system to capture pictures of plant experiments from different locations and angles and process the imagery to dissect, measure and analyse individual parameters.