School of Biosciences

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Alex Burgess

Assistant Professor in Agriculture and the Environment, Faculty of Science




2023 -

Assistant Professor of Agriculture and the Environment, University of Nottingham

2020 - 2023

Leverhulme Early Career Researching Fellow, University of Nottingham

2018 - 2020

Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Nottingham

2016 - 2018

Postdoctoral Researcher, Queen Mary University of London

2013 - 2016

PhD, University of Nottingham

2010 - 2013

BA in Biological Sciences, University of Oxford

Expertise Summary

I study photosynthesis at the whole canopy level in crop plants. I am particularly interested in how architectural properties of plants determine light interception and use. I use methods such as 3-dimensional reconstruction and mathematical modelling to determine how different structural traits influence productivity. This is important because the quantity and colour (spectral composition) of light will determine how much yield a crop can produce, thus providing a route to food security. I am also interested in the use of alternative cropping practices to improve yield production- including agroforestry systems and intercropping, the cultivation of two or more crops simultaneously.

2022- Resilient Leaders Elements Accredited Consultant

2022 - Plant Physiology Assistant Features Editor

2021 - School of Biosciences Research Champion

Teaching Summary

I contribute to teaching in the following modules:

Academic Skills for Environmental Sciences

Applied Plant physiology: cell to crop

Sustainable Agricultural Systems

Forest Ecology

Ecosystem Processes

Climate Change Biology

I also serve as the MSci project coordinator for Environmental Science and Environmental Biology

Research Summary

Leverhulme Research Fellow, University of Nottingham, September 2020 -

ArchiCrop: Casting light on the architecture of crop yield

Crop yields are stagnating in many regions and whilst it is known that light is the key determinant of productivity, it is poorly understood. Project ArchiCrop will use a combination of biological experiments, image analysis and mathematical modelling to quantify how the structure (architecture) of a plant determines spatial and temporal differences in the quantity and composition of light and how this subsequently affects photosynthesis. I will use future climate change scenarios to determine how future weather patterns will influence productivity. I will also determine how farmer preference influences decisions regarding crop breeding and how the shape of architecture has changed.

Awards and Grants:

Royal Society Research Grants, January 2022

  • H2rObo: A semi-autonomous pipeline for the quantification of plant water use efficiency

Rank Prize Nutrition New Lecturer award, November 2021

  • PlanNet: Plant Networks for improving crop productivity in response to climate change

Gatsby Grant for Exceptional Researchers, December 2020

  • CropRay: A new improved ray tracer for analysing canopy light characteristics

Past Research

Postdoctoral Researcher, Plant & Crop Science, University of Nottingham March 2018 - August 2020

  • CropBooster-P: Future-proofing our plants. EU Horizon 2020 funded. Part of a consortium to identify and prioritise targets for improving the yield production of Europe's crop plants.
  • The 4-dimensional plant: Enhanced mechanical canopy excitation for improved crop performance. BBSRC funded. Determine the effect of wind-induced movement on light patterning within crop canopies and subsequent response of photosynthesis.

Postdoctoral Researcher, SBCS, Queen Mary University of London October 2016 - February 2018

  • Novel methodology for quantitative assessment of the capacity for photoprotection in photosynthetic organisms. BBSRC funded. To use biochemical and biospectroscopic approaches to determine how components of the photosynthetic membrane determine the physiological processing of light.

PhD in Biosciences, University of Nottingham September 2013 - September 2016

  • The variable light environment within complex 3D crop canopies. Fully funded scholarship by Crops For the Future and the School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham. A combination of plant physiology, 3-dimensional reconstruction and empirical mathematical modelling was used to determine how structural properties of plants determine the quantity of light reaching leaves and the subsequent response of photosynthesis for a range of crops.

School of Biosciences

University of Nottingham
Sutton Bonington Campus
Nr Loughborough
LE12 5RD, UK

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