Renowned Tassie scientist receives prestigious fellowship

UNIVERSITY of Tasmania scientist Professor Steven Smith has been awarded a 2018 President’s International Fellowship by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Professor Smith, from the university’s School of Natural Sciences, is internationally renowned for his work in identifying new genes that control plant growth.

The prestigious fellowship will enable Professor Smith to further his research in Beijing – in particular, how a combination of specific genes can help increase grain production.

“My research has found genes which determine the number of shoots, fruits and seeds that are produced by plants,” he said.

“Changes to plant architecture in cereals have provided the foundation for the ‘Green Revolution’ of the last century, resulting in huge increases in global grain production.”

Professor Smith’s collaboration with Chinese scientists has provided a major boost to his research.

“The opportunity provided by this fellowship is vital because it provides me with access to resources that are not available in Australia,” he said.

“The aim of this research is to introduce combinations of specific genes into major cereals, such as rice or wheat, to increase grain production with minimum impact on the environment.”

Professor Smith has been a visiting professor at the institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology in Beijing since 2013.

He said the relationship between Australian and Chinese academic institutions had changed markedly in recent years.

“Chinese research and training capability is now world-class, so China is increasingly becoming a provider of educational and research expertise, instead of the customer,” he said.

Further to the fellowship, Professor Smith has also been appointed to the editorial board of the academy’s official journal ‘Science China’.

Caption: Professor Stephen Smith, from the University of Tasmania, has been awarded a 2018 President’s International Fellowship by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

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