• The University of Western Australia (M316), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Ian Small's PhD at Edinburgh University (awarded in 1988) was followed by a career with France's National Agronomy Research Institute (INRA) first as a postdoc and later as a tenured research scientist. He held the Vice-Director position at the Plant Genetics & Breeding Station in Versailles and the Plant Genomics Unit in Evry. In 2005 he was awarded a WA State Premier's Research Fellowship and moved to Perth to become the Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology early in 2006.

Roles and responsibilities

Director, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology
Expertise: molecular biology, systems biology, bioinformatics

Future research

Energy biology in plant cells

Funding overview

Current grants:

$22.3 million from the ARC for the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, 2005-2013
$400,000 from DIISR International Science Linkage

Previous positions

Directeur de Recherche, INRA


Ian's PhD work on plant mitochondrial genomes (EMBO Journal, 1988; Cell, 1989) changed the way we view their evolution, revealing unsuspected dynamic changes that are only now being understood. Building on these discoveries, his post-doctoral work on mitochondrial genes involved in cytoplasmic male sterility (Molecular and General Genetics, 1992) contributed significantly to the development, patenting and commercialisation of INRA's technology for male-sterile brassicas used in the breeding of elite hybrid lines. Much of the canola grown globally is now produced using this technology.
Ian's research has focused on the cellular machinery involved in translating messenger RNAs into proteins (The Plant Cell, 1996; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2005), and on the transport of RNA and proteins into organelles (EMBO Journal, 1992). However, his research interests evolved rapidly to take advantage of the functional genomics technology emerging from the sequencing of the Arabidopsis nuclear genome. He coordinated the large European Union Framework 5 project, AGRIKOLA, that has provided unparalleled tools to the scientific community for analysing gene function in Arabidopsis (Genome Research, 2004) by the exciting new technology of RNA interference. He is perhaps best-known for the discovery and characterisation of the pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) family of proteins, a huge family of 450 proteins involved in controlling gene expression in mitochondria and chloroplasts (Trends in Biochemical Sciences, 2000; The Plant Cell, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009).


Fluent in English

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Research expertise keywords

  • Gene expression in plant organelles
  • Large-scale Arabidopsis functional genomics research
  • Plant RNA biology and bioinformatics


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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