Professor of Plant Molecular Biology

Botany Department

The University of Queensland

Robert Birch completed a PhD in Plant Pathology at the University of Hawaii, and worked for 10 years with the Australian sugar industry as a pathologist and founder of sugarcane molecular biology research before joining UQ in 1988. At UQ he has led the teaching of plant biotechnology, served as principal supervisor of more than 20 completed research higher degree students, led collaborative teams that produced and field tested the world’s first transgenic sugarcane and helped to develop practical methods for peanut transformation applied in Indonesia and China.

He currently leads a team of more than 30 graduate scientists in a major UQ-industry R&D initiative in plant metabolic engineering. This team investigates useful new genes, gene control sequences, genetic transformation and transgene operating systems, with a driving motivation to deliver benefits for industry and the community. Their work has been published in over 100 widely-cited scientific papers and patents.

Robert is a founding editor with the Plant Biotechnology Journal and a member of the Australian Government Gene Technology Technical Advisory Committee. He has served on many international scientific and advisory committees, advocating the importance of molecular biotechnology as the platform technology for sustainable high-yield agriculture in the 21st century.