Dr George Littlejohn
Associate Professor of Plant and Fungal Biology
School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)
2021 – present Associate Professor of Plant and Fungal Biology, School of Biological and Marine Sciences, University of Plymouth
2012 – 2016 Research Fellow, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter
2007 – 2012 Research Fellow, School of Biosciences, University of Exeter
2006 – 2007 Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Plant Science Group, IBLS, University of Glasgow
1999 – 2006 PhD, University of Glasgow
1994 – 1999 B.Sc.(Hons), Genetics (With Work Placement) University of Glasgow
2018 – present Member, British Society for Plant Pathology
2016 – present Member, International Society for Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions
2014 – present Fellow, Royal Microscopical Society ( 2010– 2014, Ordinary Member)
2013 – present Fellow, Higher Education Academy (2010-2014, Associate Fellow)
2012 – 2016 Member, American Society of Plant Biologists
2010 – present Member, European Microscopy Society
2010 – present Member, Society for Experimental Biology (President's Medallist, EPA, 2014)
Roles on external bodies
2017 BBSRC grant review panel member
2016 BBSRC Bioimaging Review Group
2015 – 2018 SEB+ Section Chair, Council Member & trustee, Society for Experimental Biology
I enjoy teaching and have a particular interest in research-led teaching. I currently teach on the following modules:
- BIO014 Biology 1: Lectures on food security and green revolution
- BIO013 Biology 2: Lectures and practicals on photosynthesis, plant physiology and development
- BIOL119 Introduction to biology: Microscopy practicals
- BIOL129Z Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1: Careers sessions and tutorials
- BIOL132Z Ecology and Diversity of Life: Lectures on diversity of plants, algae, fungi
- BIOL133Z Principles of Physiology: Lectures on plant signalling, plant hormones, flowering, plant-microbe interactions. Auxin practical.
- BIOL225Z Professional Development in Biological Sciences 2: Careers sessions and tutorials
- BIOL235Z Plant Ecophysiology: Lectures on plant-pathogen interactions, problem solving workshops
- BIOL220Z Molecular Biology: Lectures on molecular biology, gene editing.
- BIOL301(Z) Plant Biotechnology (Module Lead): Lectures on plant biotechnology, synthetic biology. Workshops on socioeconomic and ethical aspects, gene mining and GM/GE strategy.
- BIOL317Z Advanced Skills and Concepts: Practicals, lectures and workshops on microscopy and image analysis
- BIOL321(Z) Pharmacology and Natural Products: Lectures on fungal natural products.
- BIOL314 / BIOL315Z Final Year Project (Module Lead): Final year project supervision and module organisation.
Staff serving as external examiners
2020 University of Glasgow PhD external examiner
2020, 2021 University of Exeter MRes external examiner
Research in my group centres around plant-pathogen interactions and the use of complementary imaging modalities in plant stress biology. We focus on (1) understanding the cellular and molecular basis of rice blast disease and (2) non-invasive image-based diagnosis of plant disease and stress biology.
Rice blast fungus (Magnaporthe oryzae) kills enough rice each year to feed 60 million people. We are working to understand the basic processes of infection and use molecular and imaging-based techniques. This has been greatly facilitated in the academic year 2018-19 by the acquisition by UoP of a new confocal microscope, which is allowing us to explore in much greater detail and with greater sensitivity, mechanisms of infection. In addition, we use molecular genetic manipulation (including CRISPR-Cas9) and diagnostic techniques, which gives a complete toolkit to pursue a research programme in the whole organism and cell biology of plant pathogen interactions.Current projects in the lab are (1) The role of the circadian clock in rice blast disease (Ciaran Griffin, UoP studentship), (2) Fluorescence imaging for Nutrition and Disease (FIND) (Dr. Naofel Aljafer and Mrs. Angela Harrop, ERDF funded), which is using plant chlorophyll imaging to give pre-symptomatic diagnosis of plant disease, which has implications for agriculture (3) The role of the chloroplast in plant immunity.
Grants & contracts
2021 - 2023 Co-Investigator (PI, Prof. Mark Fitzsimons, UoP) INTERREG "Recon Soil"
2021 - 2024 Co-Investigator (PI, Dr. Jon Ellis, UoP), Wherefore the magic? Investigating the origin of psychedelic compounds in nature. Levehulme Trust
2020 - 2024 Co-Investigator (PI, Prof. Richard Thompson FRS., UoP) BIO-PLASTIC-RISK "Biodegradable Bioplastics – Assessing Environmental Risk" ID: NE/V007556/1, NERC
2020 - 2022 Co- Investigator (with Ciaran Griffin, PhD student) The metabolic inhibition of sporulation in the rice blast pathogen, Magnaporthe oryzae. Seale-Hayne Educational Trust.
2018 - 2021 Principal Investigator Agritech Cornwall, FIND Project: Image-based early diagnosis of plant health. European Regional Development Fund.
2018 - 2020 Principal Investigator (with Dr. Will Vevers) Investigating the biocontrol of fungal pathogens using epiphytic bacteria from Abies nordmanniana. Seale-Hayne Educational Trust.
2017 - 2019 Principal Investigator Multi-scale imaging of pathogen-chloroplast interaction during rice blast disease progression. Seale-Hayne Educational Trust.
2017 - 2021 Principal Investigator / PhD Supervisor The role of circadian entrainment in rice blast disease. Faculty of Science and Engineering, Plymouth University.
Key publications are highlightedJournals
Reports & invited lectures
2020 Research seminar (via Zoom), University of Arkansas, USA
2020 Research seminar (via Zoom), University of Alicante, Spain
2019 Invited talk, GARNet Workshop: Advances in Plant Imaging, University of Warwick, UK.2018 Research seminar, University of York, UK
2017 Research seminar, University of Warwick, UK
2016 Research seminar, University of Alicante, Spain
2016 Invited lecture series on advanced imaging, University of Alicante, Spain
2015 Research seminar, University of Durham, UK.
2015 Research seminar, Centre for Plant Integrative Biology, University of Nottingham, UK.
2015 12th New Phytologist workshop “The apoplast as battleground for plant–microbe interactions” Gießen, Germany.
2015 Research seminar, Institute of Phytomedicine, University of Bonn, Germany.
2014 Society for Experimental Biology President’s Medallist Talk (Education & PublicAffairs), Main Meeting, Manchester, UK.
2014 Society for Experimental Biology, Careers Talk, SEB Main Meeting, Manchester, UK.
2010 Research talk and biography, Britain Needs Bioscientists, University of Exeter,Tremough, UK.
2017 Co-chair, Light-sheet microscopy, RMS MMC Meeting , Manchester, UK
2017 Co-chair, Imaging pathogenesis in plants, SEB Main Meeting , Gothenburg, Sweden
2017 Co-chair, The research and teaching nexus, SEB Main Meeting , Gothenburg, Sweden
2016 Chair, Science with Impact Plenary Session, SEB Main Meeting , Brighton, UK
2015 Co-chair, Innovations in undergraduate teaching Session, SEB Main Meeting , Prague, Czech Republic
2014 Lead applicant and co-organiser:“Undergraduates never do anything useful” Workshop, University of Exeter. (ASPB blog post covering the event here: http://blog.aspb.org/2014/04/28/research-led-teaching-opportunities-for-early-career-researchers/)
2012 Co-organiser, How to be a Great Teacher workshop, International Conference on Arabidopsis Research , Vienna, Austria
2011 – 2016 Co-organiser, Exeter Imaging Network
Other academic activities
I am actively involved in the Society for Experimental Biology, where I sat on the SEB Council and Chaired the SEB+ section (2015-18). More information here: http://www.sebiology.org/SEBplus/about-seb
2020 University of Plymouth UPSU SSTAR Award – Sensational Programme Lead (FoSE), Environmental Biotechnology2014 Society for Experimental Biology President’s Medal (Education and Public Affairs).
2013 – 14 Exeter University Merit Award
2012 – 13 Exeter University Merit Award
2010 European Biophysics Award: 1st Prize for a presentation at the Società Italiana di Fisica International School of Physics “Enrico Fermi” CLXXVII Course “Advanced Methods in Optical Fluorescence Microscopy Towards Nanoscopy”
2007 – 08 Exeter University Merit Award
1999 Pontecorvo Prize in Genetics (Graduating class 1st prize), University ofGlasgow
2015 Elected Society for Experimental Biology EPA (SEB+) SectionChair
2015 Council Member, Trustee and Cell and EPA (SEB+) Section Committees, Society for Experimental Biology
2014 Fellow of the Royal Microscopical Society (Ordinary Member 2010-2014)
2013 Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (Associate 2010 – 2013)
2012 University of Exeter ASPIRE Fellow (awarded for research-led education).