Colwyn Thomas



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Personal profile

Administrative Posts

  • Member of BIO Teaching Executive
  • Chair of the BIO/JIC Working Group on Teaching
  • Chair of the Bioscience CurriculumWorking Group
  • Deputy Director of Admissions
  • UEA Course Director for the M.Sc in 'Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement' which is delivered jointly with the John Innes Centre (JIC)
  • Module organiser for Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics (BIO-7012A); Plant Breeding (BIO-7003A); Plant Genomics and Biotechnology (BIO-7001B); Target traits for Crop Improvement (BIO-7002B); Laboratory Research Project (BIO-7033X); Statistics for Plant Science (BIO-7016Y); Research Project Plan (BIO-7014B); Practical Skills in Plant Molecular Genetics (BIO7015Y)
  • Module organiser for Genomes, Genes and Genomics (BIO-6013A); Genetics (BIO-5009A); Plant Biotechnology for Sustainable Food Prodcution (BIO-6013A).


  • B.Sc. - Plant Science, University College Cardiff (1981)
  • Ph.D. - University College Cardiff (1984)
  • Post-doctoral researcher, Department of Applied Genetics, John Innes Centre (1984-1988)
  • Senior post-doctoral researcher, Sainsbury Laboratory, John Innes Centre (1989-2001)
  • Lecturer in Biology, University of East Anglia (2001-2009)
  • Senior Lecturer in Biology, University of East Anglia (2009-present)

External Activities

  • Mentor for the Gatsby Plant Science undergraduate programme
  • External examiner at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at the University of Aberystwyth for the B,Sc in Genetics and taught Masters programmes in ‘Food and water Security’ and ‘Managing the Environment’
  • UEA Academic Link with Easton-Otley College for degree programmes on Agriculture and related.

Key Research Interests and Expertise

Despite significant advances in plant breeding and agriculture (such as the ‘Green Revolution’) there is still a major challenge to reduce crop losses that result from diseases caused by fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes. The Norwich Research Park has a world class reputation in the study of molecular plant pathology. It is hoped that a greater understanding of the molecular interactions that control pathogen infection will have direct applications in creating disease resistant crops.

My lab-based research career was focused on the molecular interactions between plants and their pathogens (particularly fungi and viruses), together with the genetic organisation and evolution of plant disease resistance gene loci. This research utilised several model plant-pathogen interactions to determine the genetic and molecular basis of resistance to pathogen infection using primarily the interaction between tomato and the leaf mold pathogen Cladosporium fulvum.

In collaboration with Dr Mark Stevens at the British Beet Research Organisation we have also studied the interaction between the economically important luteoviruses and their hosts, including sugar beet and oilseed rape. In the case of Beet Mild Yellows Virus (BMYV- which causes significant losses to the UK sugar beet crop) we have used the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to identify host genes required for BMYV infection. We have also studied Turnip Yellows Virus which causes significant yield losses in UK oilseed rape. 

Teaching Interests

Teaching Activities

  • Molecules Genes and Cells (BIO-4013Y)
  • Skills for Biologists (BIO-4008Y)
  • Plant Biology (BIO-5006A)
  • Genetics (BIO-5009A)
  • Clinical Genetics (BIO-5011A)
  • Microbiology (BIO-5015B)
  • Molecular Biology (BIO-5003B)
  • Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (BIO-6007A)
  • Genomes, Genes and Genomics (BIO-6013A)
  • Genetics, Genomics and Bioinformatics (BIO-7012A)
  • Plant Breeding (BIO-7003A)
  • Plant Genomics and Biotechnology (BIO-7001B)
  • Target traits for Crop Improvement (BIO-7002B)
  • Laboratory Research Project (BIO-7033X)
  • Practical Skills in Plant Molecular Genetics (BIO-7015Y)
  • Research Project Plan (BIO-7014B)

I have a long-standing interest in genetics and its application in addressing important questions in biology. My own research in plant-microbe interactions has exploited genetic approaches to investigate the molecular basis of plant defence mechanisms to microbial pathogens. I also have a strong interest in modern genetic approaches that will help solve some major challenges facing mankind, such as human health and particularly crop improvement.  As a Senior Lecturer (ATS) my primary focus is on teaching and scholarship activities at undergraduate and post-graduate levels. I am module organizer for genetics-focused modules at levels 5 and 6 (BIO-5009A and BIO-6013A) and a major contributor to teaching on the Molecules Genes and Cells module (BIO-4013Y) at level 4. I also teach plant biology at levels 4 and 5 (BIO-4013Y and BIO-5006A) and, together with colleagues from the John Innes Centre (JIC), at level 6 on the module Plant Biotechnology for sustainable Food Production (BIO-6025B). I am also the UEA Course Director for the one-year M-level course in Plant Genetics and Crop Improvement. This course is jointly delivered with our colleagues at JIC together with significant input from the UK plant breeding industry. This course has a strong focus on plant genetics and it’s applications to crop improvement through conventional breeding, genetic modification and the use of novel genome editing technologies.    



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