Professor Liam Dolan

Sherardian Professor of Botany

Oxford Martin Senior Alumni Fellow

Professor Dolan graduated with a degree in Botany at University College Dublin. He carried out PhD research on plant developmental genetics at the University of Pennsylvania, under the supervision of Scott Poethig. He then spent 3 years as a post-doctoral researcher at the John Innes Centre, Norwich (UK) before becoming and independent project leader. After 13 years running his own group in Norwich, Liam moved to Oxford as the Sherardian Professor of Botany in 2009. Liam was awarded the Presidents Medal of the Society of Experimental Biology in 2001 and was elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO) in 2009.

The aim of Liam’s research is to define genetic mechanism that control the development of plants and determine how these mechanisms have changed since plants colonized the land 500 million years ago. Liam’s lab discovered that the genes controlling the development of root systems are ancient and likely appeared very early in the evolution of land plants. While the function of the genes that control rooting system development is conserved, the way these genes regulate each other has changed dramatically since plants first appeared on land.

His group is trying to determine if these regulatory changes can explain the diversity of plant form that we see today. In addition to providing insight into evolutionary mechanisms, this knowledge can be used to develop crops with desirable traits. To this end they are developing technologies that can enhance nutrient uptake efficiency in crops, especially cereals. In this way they can use knowledge of evolutionary mechanism to help us increase crop yields and enhance the sustainability of agriculture in the next 50 years.