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Mark Tester

Professor, Plant Science

Research Interests

The immediate aim of Professor Tester's research program is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that enable certain plants to thrive in sub-optimal soil conditions, such as those of high salinity, low water or low nutrients.
The ultimate applied aim of the program is to modify crop plants in order to increase productivity on such soils, with consequent improvement of yield in both developed and developing countries.
Furthermore, the intellectual aim is to understand the co-ordination of whole plant function through processes occurring at the level of single cells, particularly through processes of long-distance communication within plants. This aim is being addressed by combining genetic and genomic approaches with a broad-based understanding of plant physiology.
A particular strength of Professor Tester's research program is the integration of cell biology with whole plant physiology. The development and use of tools for the study and manipulation of specific cell types is unique in the field of salinity tolerance, and even in the broader areas of plant nutrition and ion transport.

Selected Publications

  • Roy, S.J., Negrão, S. & Tester, M. (2014) Salt resistant crop plants. Current Opinion in Biotechnology 26: 115-124.

  • Roy, S.J., Huang, W., Wang, X., Evrard, A., Schmöckel, S., Zafar, Z.U. and Tester, M. (2013) A novel protein kinase involved in Na+ exclusion revealed from positional cloning. Plant Cell & Environment 35: 553-568

  • Munns, R., James, R.A., Xu B., Athman, A., Jordans, C., Conn, S.J., Byrt, C.S., Hare, R.A., Tyerman, S.D., Tester, M., Plett, D. & Gilliham, M. (2012) Grain yield of modern wheat on saline soils is improved by ancestral HKT gene. Nature Biotechnology 30: 360–364

  • Tester, M. & Langridge, P. (2010) Breeding technologies to increase crop production in a changing world. Science 327: 818-822 (invited review)

  • Møller, I.S., Gilliham, M., Jha, D., Mayo, G.M., Roy, S.J., Coates, J.C., Haseloff, J. & Tester, M. (2009) Shoot Na+ exclusion and increased salinity tolerance engineered by cell type-specific manipulation of Na+ transport in Arabidopsis. Plant Cell 21: 2163–2178

Education Profile

  • 1988  PhD in Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, .
  • BSc (Hons) in Plant Sciences, 1st Class, University of Adelaide, 1984.

Professional Profile

  • 2013 – Date  Professor of Bioscience, King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, Saudi Arabia
  • 2009 –2013  Professor of Plant Physiology, University of Adelaide and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics
  • 2004 – 2008  Research Professor, Australian Research Council Federation Fellow
  • 2001 – 2003  BBSRC Research Development Fellow
  • 2000 – 2003  Senior Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
  • 1994 – 2003  Fellow, Churchill College Cambridge
  • 1993 – 2000  Lecturer, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
  • 1990 – 1992  Lecturer, Department of Botany, University of Adelaide
  • 1988 – 1990  Junior Research Fellow, Churchill College Cambridge


  • 2010  American Society of Plant Biologists recognition for “publishing the most influential science” (one of 12 Australians and 45 internationally)
                   ⁃    Faculty of Science Award for Distinguished Contribution to Research over a sustained period
                   ⁃    Australian Institute of Architects SA Chapter Keith Neighbour Prize for Best Commercial Building,
                       (The Plant Accelerator)
                   ⁃    Australian Institute of Architects SA Chapter Commendation for Environmentally Sustainable Building,
                       (The Plant Accelerator)
                   ⁃    Master Builders Association Commendation for excellence in commercial / industrial building $10-20 million
                  ⁃    Australian Steel Institute SA Awards: Steel Clad Structures – Steel Design Award
  • 2004  ARC Federation Fellowship
  • 2001  BBSRC Research Development Fellowship
  • 1997  President’s Medal of the Society for Experimental Biology
  • 1988   Glaxo Junior Research Fellowship, Churchill College, Cambridge