Professor Elizabeth Aitken

Professor

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Faculty of Science

Affiliated Professor

Centre for Crop Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation
e.aitken@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 54775

Overview

Professor Elizabeth Aitken (Liz) obtained her BSc Hons in Agricultural Science (Crop Science) from Edinburgh University where she specialised in Plant Pathology. She then went on to undertake her PhD studies at Aberdeen University in conjunction with the UK Forestry Commission on a study of dieback on Scots pine trees. This was followed with postdoctoral studies at Birmingham University and the Sainsbury Lab, aiming to identify a rust resistance gene by transposon tagging. In 1993 she moved to Australia and joined UQ as an academic staff member.

Much of Liz’s research at UQ has focused on diseases of tropical crops in particular banana, ginger, cotton and sunflower. Research topics have included the genetics of plant-pathogen interactions, molecular aspects of pathogenicity and disease diagnostics. This research has been undertaken with strong collaborations with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and with CSIRO. Research topics have included the genetics of plant-pathogen interactions, molecular aspects of pathogenicity and disease diagnostics. This work has assisted in the identification of disease incursions in particular in banana and of cryptic plant pathogen species of Pythium in ginger and Phomopsis in sunflower. One current research focus includes identification of resistance to Fusarium wilt in diploid banana lines for potential deployment against TR4 in commercial banana cultivars; this has received funding from BMGF in collaboration with the International Institute of Topical Agriculture in Africa as well as from Hort Innovation Australia. Other studies include analysis of putative pathogenicity genes including Six genes in Fusarium oxysporum affecting banana, strawberry and ginger and in collaboration with colleagues at CSIRO studies on Fusarium spp on wheat particularly with regard to influence of environmental factors related to climate change.

Since commencing at UQ in 1993, Liz has supervised numerous postgraduate and honours students and participated in undergraduate teaching at all levels in plant science and in particular in plant pathology and fungal biology. She has also taken on various roles and committee membership in postgraduate student mentoring, research integrity and biosafety.

Research Interests

  • Fusarium oxysporum
    Analysis of the role of endophytic Fusarium oxysporum among members of the Zingeberales
  • Putative effector genes in Fusarium oxysporum
    Analysis of putative pathogenicity genes including "Six" genes in Fusarium oxysporum that affect a range of crop species including strawberry and ginger
  • Resistance to Fusarium wilt in banana
    Identification and characterization of resistance to Fusarium wilt in seeded diploid banana lines for potential deployment against TR4
  • Verticillium dahliae on cotton
    Histological and molecular interaction of Verticillium dahliae on cotton

Research Impacts

Much of Prof. Aitken’s research at UQ has focused on diseases of tropical crops in particular banana, ginger and sunflower. Research topics have included the genetics of plant-pathogen interactions, molecular aspects of pathogenicity and disease diagnostics. This work has assissted in the identification of disease incursions in particular in banana and of cryptic plant pathoegn species in ginger and sunflower. Current research focus includes identification of resistance to Fusraium wilt in diploid banana lines for potential deployment against Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense race 4 in commercial banana cultivars.

Qualifications

  • PhD, University of Aberdeen
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Ag Science), University of Edinburgh

Publications

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Grants

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Supervision

  • (2021) Doctor Philosophy

  • (2021) Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

  • SIX (secreted in xylem) genes have been identified in a range of different formae speciales of the pathogenic fungus Fusarium oxysporum specific to different host plants. We are currently disecting the action of these genes on the crop plants that we work on (banana, ginger, cotton and strawberry) in an attempt to understand the host-pathogen interaction. We are also interesting in identifying other potential effector genes involved in host interactions. Projects would be available in this research area. We would encourage interested suitable candidates to apply for HDR scholarships. Information on UQ scholarships can be found at

    https://future-students.uq.edu.au/admissions/higher-degree-research

  • We are interested in assessing the interation of Verticillium dahliae on cotton. Examining the interaction at a histological level and also at a molecular level in order to identify targets for control. Currently we do not have a designated scholarship availble but we would encourage suitable candidates to apply for scholarships. Information on UQ scholarships can be found at https://future-students.uq.edu.au/admissions/higher-degree-research

    A potential scholarship avenue could be via the Cotton Research Development Corporation. For more information go to https://crdc.com.au/for-researchers/scholarships

View all Available Projects

Publications

Featured Publications

Book

Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • SIX (secreted in xylem) genes have been identified in a range of different formae speciales of the pathogenic fungus Fusarium oxysporum specific to different host plants. We are currently disecting the action of these genes on the crop plants that we work on (banana, ginger, cotton and strawberry) in an attempt to understand the host-pathogen interaction. We are also interesting in identifying other potential effector genes involved in host interactions. Projects would be available in this research area. We would encourage interested suitable candidates to apply for HDR scholarships. Information on UQ scholarships can be found at

    https://future-students.uq.edu.au/admissions/higher-degree-research

  • We are interested in assessing the interation of Verticillium dahliae on cotton. Examining the interaction at a histological level and also at a molecular level in order to identify targets for control. Currently we do not have a designated scholarship availble but we would encourage suitable candidates to apply for scholarships. Information on UQ scholarships can be found at https://future-students.uq.edu.au/admissions/higher-degree-research

    A potential scholarship avenue could be via the Cotton Research Development Corporation. For more information go to https://crdc.com.au/for-researchers/scholarships