Dr Simon Williams

PhD, BBiotech(Hons)
Postdoctoral Research Fellow (DECRA)
College of Science

Areas of expertise

  • Structural Biology (Incl. Macromolecular Modelling) 060112
  • Plant Biology 0607
  • Plant Cell And Molecular Biology 060702

Research interests

Structural Biology/Plant Innate Immunity/Plant Fungal Pathogens

See lab webpage for more details: https://biology.anu.edu.au/research/labs/williams-group-plant-structural-immunology


I was awarded my PhD in protein biochemistry from Flinders University in April 2010. My doctoral work was carried out in the laboratory of A/Prof Peter Anderson, School of Biological Sciences, and involved the use of protein biochemistry to understand the activation mechanisms of plant innate immune receptors. In late 2009, I moved to the University of Queensland (UQ) to work with Professor of Structural Biology, Bostjan Kobe. In this position, I utilised X-ray crystallography and protein biochemistry to understand host-microbe interactions. My primary project, funded from consecutive ARC Discovery grants, looked to understand the mechanisms that pathogens use to colonise and cause disease in plants, and those that plants use to recognise pathogens and activate defence responses. In late 2015, I was awarded a prestigious Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) from the Australian Research Council to join the Research School of Biology (RSB) at the Australian National University (ANU) working with A/Prof Peter Solomon. In 2018 I accepted a lab leader/faculty position within the Plant-Microbe Interaction/Cell Biology theme, in the division of Plant Sciences, RSB, ANU. My laboratory utilises structural biology and protein biochemistry to study plant-microbe interactions.

ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4781-6261

Researcher ID: www.researcherid.com/rid/F-7447-2011

Google scholar: http://scholar.google.com.au/citations?hl=en&user=VOOn9ZMAAAAJ


Researcher's projects

ARC DECRA: How do effector proteins from necrotrophic fungi cause disease in plants?

Available student projects

Our primary research objective is to understand the molecular basis of the interactions between plant hosts and the microorganisms, particularly fungi, that colonise them.

To do this we use molecular biology, protein biochemistry/biophysics and structural biology approaches.

Our research encompasses two broad themes

Theme 1: Plant immunity receptors - We want to understand how extracellular and intracellular immunity receptors in plants detect and respond to the recognition of effector (virulence) proteins from plant pathogens. This knowledge will be critical to understand the function of these receptors during resistance responses. It will also inform future gene-editing/genetic engineering approaches to manipulate and enhance plant disease resistance.

Theme 2: Pathogen effector (virulence) proteins - We want to understand how pathogen effector proteins perturb and/or activate defence pathways. To date, we have a poor understanding of effector virulence function, particularly in eukaryotic pathogens. I’m currently tackling this fundamental knowledge gap by studying multiple model and commercially relevant pathosystems.

Current student projects

  1. Structural studies of the signaling domains from plant NLR (nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain (NOD)-like receptors) immunity proteins (see publications 10.1073/pnas.1609922113, 10.1126/science.1247357, 0.3389/fpls.2016.01850).
  2. Understanding the structural basis of PR1 (pathogenesis-related 1) mediated disease resistance in wheat (see publications 10.1111/tpj.13228, 10.1111/mpp.12385).


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

Return to top

Updated:  29 May 2020 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers