Researcher biography

Associate 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, sunflower as well as wheat. 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 or 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 is now funded by the BMGF in collaboration with the International Institute of Topical Agriculture in Africa. 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, Elizabeth has supervised numerous postgraduate and honours students and participated in undergraduate teaching at all levels including co-ordination of the third year capstone course in Plant Science. She has also taken on various roles and committee membership in postgraduate student mentoring, research integrity and biosafety.