The Harper Lab investigates the genetic factors controlling complex traits in plants. We work on various species, focussing on traits that are important for the protection of the environment, the sustainability of agriculture or food security.
Understanding tolerance to ash dieback disease
Ash dieback disease, caused by a fungal pathogen, is killing many of our ash trees. We are using transcriptomics to understand why a small proportion of trees appear to be able to tolerate the fungus better than others.
Working towards wheat sustainability
Wheat is one of the most important crops in the world, but as the population grows and the climate changes, we will need to develop more resilient, nutrient and water-efficient varieties. We are investigating the basis for variation in some of these traits in diverse landrace wheats.
The genetic control of complex traits
We are developing new tools which use different types of genetic and epigenetic markers to understand the complex array of genetic and epigenetic interactions underlying complex traits.
In my teaching, I like to introduce students to the newest techniques being applied in the areas of plant breeding and genetics in interesting and accessible ways, whilst encouraging them to think about how these approaches could be used to provide real-world impacts.
My lectures broadly cover the study of complex genetic traits, genome evolution, and the analysis of high throughput genome and transcriptome data.
My tutorials are under the broad heading of plant science. We discuss topics such as disease resistance and abiotic stress tolerance in plants, and the newest techniques in genetic analysis, genetic modification and gene editing as tools for crop breeding and protection.
Undergraduate and Masters-level projects are available in my lab which broadly aim to understand the genetic control of traits of importance for the improved resilience of plants. Projects are usually multi-disciplinary, often combining glasshouse, bioinformatics and molecular lab work, and are designed to give students experience of new analytical methods and an increased knowledge of the subject, whilst generating new data on biologically important traits.