Julian Schwerdt

Julian Schwerdt

School of Agriculture, Food and Wine

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

I'm a computational biologist and began my scientific career as a software developer building biological databases in the UK. I returned to Australia to take up a position at the South Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (SAPAC) as a Bioinformatics Specialist. This involved a close association with the Australian Centre for Plant Function Genomics (ACPFG) which in turn lead to a Ph.D and post-doctoral position at the ACPFG and the ARC CoE for Plant Cell Walls. My interests are in protein family evolution, coevolution networks and recently biological applications for machine learning.

My Ph.D research focused on the evolutionary history and dynamics of the cellulose synthase superfamily in the angiosperms (flowering plants). This aimed to explore how a family of proteins have evolved to produce the diversity of carbohydrates we consume for food, fuel and materials. We reconstructed molecular sequence evolution to infer when protein families evolved and how natural selection has shaped this process. The association of this snippet of evolution with other observed changes such as morphology and protein structural elements can now be used to predict protein function and other characteristics of a stubbornly inscrutable protein superfamily.


As a postdoctoral researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls, my present research focuses on understanding the synthesis and interactions of cell wall carbohydrates and their evolution in the context of plant survival strategies and interactions with fungal pathogens. I use computational methods related to phylogenetics, genomics, transcriptomics, and homology modeling. My currents projects include:

  • Plant genome assembly
  • Phylogenetics of cell wall associated enzyme pathway
  • Reconstructing the sequences of ancestral proteins
  • Coevolution network analysis
  • Applications of machine learning methodologies to phenotyping
  • Appointments

    Date Position Institution name
    2017 - ongoing Post-doctoral researcher ARC CoE Plant Cell Walls
    2012 - ongoing Bioinformatician ARC CoE Plant Cell Walls
    2004 - 2008 Bioinformatics Computer Specialist South Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing
  • Research Interests

2008 - Grains Research & Development Corporation GRS Post-graduate scholarship.

2010 to present, Master of Plant Biotechnology (bioinformatics course)

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