Dr Julian Hibberd

Senior Lecturer at Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

Senior Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge

Dr Julian Hibberd’s research concentrates on the evolution and assembly of photosynthetic apparatus in plants. In particular, he focuses on leaves undertaking C4 photosynthesis; an adaptation of the more common C3 photosynthesis, which is seen in the vast majority of plants.

C4 leaves have higher photosynthetic capacities than C3 leaves, and as a consequence, C4 crops are the most productive on the planet. They are therefore targets for future food and fuel needs. In collaboration with the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines (IRRI), Dr Hibberd and his team are particularly interested in placing components of the C4 pathway into rice in order to increase yields of this critical crop. He is part of a major international consortium that has formed in order to initiate work on making C4 rice.

His research in this area uses techniques including molecular cloning, the use of molecular genetics and mutants to discover gene function, imaging of GFP-tagged proteins to determine cellular and subcellular location, using epifluorescence or laser confocal scanning microscopy and using infra red gas analysis and pulse modulated fluorimetry to investigate different photosynthetic abilities.

Julian Hibberd's contributions to the understanding of photosynthesis have been recognised by his receiving the Melvin Calvin award for research in photosynthesis. The specific aims of placing characteristics of C4 photosynthesis into rice has also been recognised in Nature, with Dr Hibberd being named as one of five crop researchers who could change the world.

His research interests include

  • The evolution and molecular biology of C4 photosynthesis
  • The role and regulation of specific enzymes needed for C4 photosynthesis that are expressed in specific cell-types of C3 plants
  • The role and regulation of photosynthesis in the stems of plants
  • The regulation of photosynthesis genes by the circadian clock