Professor Julian Hibberd

Photo of Professor Julian Hibberd

BSc(Wales), PhD(Wales)

Official Fellow; Auditor of the College Accounts
Professor in Photosynthesis


Julian Hibberd was admitted as a Fellow to the College in 2000. Before that, he completed his first degree in Biological Sciences at Bangor, North Wales in 1991, and stayed in Bangor and was awarded a PhD in 1994. He then conducted post-doctoral work in both Sheffield and Cambridge. In 1999 Julian was appointed to a University Lectureship in Plant Sciences.


Julian Hibberd’s lab conducts research into photosynthetic pathways in plants. Although the work carried out is fundamental in nature, we also have collaborations with applied scientists who are striving to improve crop yields. Currently, our basic science focuses on understanding how genes used in C4 photosynthesis are regulated, and through comparative analysis with orthologous genes in C3 species we infer how gene expression has altered during the evolution of the C4 pathway.

Along with the camera-like eye and mimicry in animals, the C4 pathway is considered one of the most remarkable examples of convergent evolution. Current estimates are that is has evolved in over sixty independent lineages of plants despite the fact that compared with the ancestral C3 system, it involves alterations to leaf biochemistry, cell biology and anatomy. We are using deep sequencing of this natural diversity of C3 and C4 plants distributed across the angiosperm phylogeny to understand the extent to which patterns of gene expression are convergent in these non-model C3 and C4 species. We have more recently started a project in which we are attempting to bring back useful genetic variation (eg genes from drought and disease resistance) into domesticated rice. When the first farmers domesticated rice, many genes present in rice’s wild ancestors were lost (the domestication bottleneck), to address this we are undertaking a large crossing program with IRRI to bring lost alleles back into cultivated rice. The lab uses a mix of molecular and synthetic biology, biochemistry, physiology and also computational approaches to address our favourite hypotheses. We receive funding from the BBSRC, the EU and are part of international research programs including the C4 rice project coordinated by IRRI, as well as BBSRC-NSF and EU networks that aim to improve photosynthetic efficiency.

Career path

  • Undergraduate degree in Biology at the University of Wales, Bangor
  • PhD in Plant Sciences at the University of Wales, Bangor
  • Post-doctoral research contract in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield
  • Post-doctoral research contract in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge
  • BBSRC Sir David Phillips Research Fellowship, and the then Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge.