Team

Prof Jim Whelan

Research Director, La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food (LIAF)
Research Director, ARC ITRH Medicinal Agriculture
Research Director, International Collaborations, China and India
Chief Investigator, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology
AgriBiosciences Professor, Department of Animal, Plant and Soil Sciences, AgriBio, La Trobe University

Highlights of Professor Whelan’s long and successful career include 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 Biologists), and more than 10,000 citations for his hundreds of published articles focusing on his research work in plant energy metabolism.

As Professor of Plant Science in the Department of Plant and Animal Sciences, School of Life Sciences, he heads a team of professional scientists and students who are at the cutting edge of research within La Trobe’s Securing Food, Water and the Environment Research Focus Area. He also holds an appointment in the College of Life Science at Zhejiang University in China where he has been the Pao Yu- Kong Chair Professor since 2008 and awarded a West Lake Friendship award in 2015 by the Zhejiang Provincial government for his collaborative research work in China.

He currently has collaborations with Nanjing Agricultural University and China Agricultural University in Beijing. Professor Whelan is Research Director of La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food and the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industry Transformation Research Hub in Medicinal Agriculture. He was also instrumental in establishing the highly regarded ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, for which he is currently Chief Investigator.

As part of La Trobe's strategic priority to become the Unrivalled Partner of Choice, Professor Whelan has also been appointed to a fractional role as Director, Research Collaborations (China and India) to grow La Trobe's research partnership efforts and activities within the region. In this role, Professor Whelan provides leadership and oversight of La Trobe’s research strategy and collaborations.


Research Fellow

Oliver completed his PhD in 2003 at the IPK in Gatersleben in Germany before working for 6 years at the Australian National University in Canberra on root physiology in wheat. He 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 Oliver joined the centre node at La Trobe where he currently applies next-generation sequencing technologies to analyse mitochondrial function and plant responses to stress.


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 in Canberra to work on early drought responses in wheat. In 2008, Ricarda started to study plant adaption to low phosphorous 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. Ricarda's overall aim is to study local plant adaption to low nutrient availability and improve nutrient utilisation in crop plants.


Research Fellow

Following the completion of her PhD, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Yan worked as a Research Associate in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Plant Energy Biology at the University of Western Australia within the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology. Since 2014, Yan has been employed by La Trobe to research mitochondrial retrograde signalling within the Whelan Lab. One of her current research projects is investigating the characterisation of mitochondrial biogenesis and function and the identification of key signalling pathways.


Jennifer Selinski

Research Fellow
Jennifer comes to La Trobe from Germany, where she completed her PhD in Plant Physiology in 2014 at Osnabruek University. Her research focuses on the analysis of poising mechanisms which balance the ATP/NAD(P)H ratio, maintain redox homeostasis and therefor 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 interest lies in using hte latest technologies and molecular approaches, including next generation sequencing, to find how mitochondria regulate germination success and progression in rice. In 2016 she was awarded a DECRA fellowship to continue her research.


Ritu Shree Jain

Research Fellow

Ritu Shree completed her PhD in Plant Molecular Biology in 2014 from the University of Leeds in the UK. She received scholarships for her PhD studentship from the Science Bridge: Sustainable Indo-UK Agriculture Initiative and for her Masters course from the Faculty of Bioscience at the University of Leeds. Ritu Shree's key research interests include transcriptomic and epigenetic mechanisms controlling plant stress responses towards combinatorial as well as singular biotic and abiotic stresses in crops and transgenerational immune priming.


Yue Xu

Research Officer
Yue completed his PhD in Plant Molecular Biology at La Trobe in 2013. He joined the La Trobe node of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology where he works within 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, 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.


Diego Lozano

PhD Student
Diego completed a Masters 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 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.


Andreas Hartmann

PhD Student
Andreas graduated from University of Osnabrueck (Germany) in 2015 with a Masters of Science Biology during which time he undertook a short internship in the Whelan Lab. Following this, in 2016 Andreas commenced his PhD in the Whelan Lab 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 is PhD focusing on the mitochondrial retrograde response in the monocot plants of rice and barley.


Meiyan Ren

PhD Student
Meiyan joined the Whelan Lab within the Animal, Plant and Soil Sciences Department at La Trobe as a PhD student, in 2015 after completing her Masters degree in Natural Science, Botany at University of Zhejiang, China. She is interested in the functional characterisation of proteins that play roles in determining responses to abiotic stresses in Arabidopsis. Her current work focuses on the functional roles of calcium signalling CBL-CIPK proteins in the Pi deficiency and drought stress responses in Arabidopsis.


Changyu (Joe) Yi

PhD Student
Joe 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 identifying adaptive traits to low phosphorus availability in 200+ Arabidopsis accessions.


Xishi Zhou

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


XiangXiang Meng

PhD Student
XiangXiang obtained his Masters 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 as a PhD student at La Trobe in the Whelan Lab commenced in 2015 and involves the characteristics of stress responses using mitochondrial mutants in Arabidopsis.


Lu Li

PhD Student
Lu obtained her Masters degree at Zhejiang University in China. She commenced her PhD at La Trobe in 2015 with a thesis titled 'Functional Characterisation of Novel Mitochondrial Outer Membrane Proteins Involved in Mitochondrial Biogenesis in Arabidopsis thaliana'. Lu's research interests lie in the functional characterisation of proteins involved in mitochondrial signalling and the role these proteins have in determining responses to stress conditions.


Cunman (Frank) He

PhD Student
Frank originates from Shandong, China. He joined the Whelan Lab in 2017 and is in his second year of his PhD at La Trobe. His project focuses on the identification of differences in post-translational regulation of AOX isoforms in Arabidopsis thaliana and the identification of new regulators of mitochondrial specific stress signalising pathways in Arabidopsis thaliana.


Yanqiao Zhu

Honorary Trainee Fellow
Yanqiao is a Forage seed science master-doctor continuous study student at the China Agricultural University, Beijing and is currently undertaking an internship in the Whelan Lab which she commenced in 2017. Her placement involves working on projects which examine the role of mitochondria in seed aging by examining the biochemical characteristics of mitochondria form artificially 'aged' seeds so as to gain knowledge on increasing the lifetime of seed storage and nutritional value maintenance.


Chunli Mao

Honorary Trainee Fellow
Chunli commenced an internship with the Whelan Lab in 2018 as a master-doctor continuous study student from the China Agricultural University. Her current research involves working on projects which examine the role of mitochondria in seed waging by examining the biochemical characteristics of mitochondria form artificially 'aged' seeds so as to gain knowledge on increasing the lifetime of seed storage and nutritional value maintenance.


Yanqiong (Allison) Chen

Honours Student

Allison completed her Bachelor of Biological Science at La Trobe and is currently conducting her honours research supervised by Prof Whelan. Her thesis looks at identifying cell-specificity of AOX genes expression and mitochondrial mechanical stress responsive genes expression in Arabidopsis thaliana, and the alternative splicing of genes in cell - specific manner. She is interested in the mechanisms of cellular homeostasis.