Professor Andrew Fleming

School of Biosciences

Professor of Plant Science

Andrew Fleming
Profile picture of Andrew Fleming
+44 114 222 4830

Full contact details

Professor Andrew Fleming
School of Biosciences
Alfred Denny Building
Western Bank
S10 2TN
  • Deputy Head of Department, Department of Animal and Plant Science, University of Sheffield (2015-present)
  • Professor of Plant Science, University of Sheffield (2004-present)
  • Group Leader, ETH-Zurich, Switzerland (1998-2004)
  • Senior Assistant, University of Bern, Switzerland (1997-8)
  • Habilitation, University of Bern, Switzerland (1996)
  • Assistant, University of Bern, Switzerland (1989-1997)
  • Postdoctorate, ETH-Zurich, Switzerland (1988)
  • PhD Cambridge (1988)
  • BA Cambridge (1984)
Research interests

Our research is focused on understanding the mechanism of leaf development. In particular, we are interested in the interplay of cell growth and division, how these parameters are integrated into the developmental program controlling leaf structure, and the impact the resultant internal cellular architecture has on leaf function- particularly photosynthesis and water-use efficiency.

We take an integrated systems approach, using experimental data derived from advanced imaging, biochemistry and physiology to inform computational models, which we then use to develop testable hypotheses on how structure relates to function, utilising a range of genetic and experimental approaches to alter specific elements of the modelled system.

Over recent years we have developed a keen interest in guard cells, working closely with Julie Gray to investigate how cell wall structure sets the limits for stomatal function and, thus, gas exchange in leaves. This work extends to seeking to understand how stomatal and mesophyll differentiation are co-ordinated, how mesophyll air space is formed, and the control of mesophyll cell shape and separation.

We have a long-standing interest in the earliest phases of leaf initiation and development, including the link between metabolism and development, leading us to projects aimed at elucidating the mechanism underpinning the switch from quiescence to growth in dormant buds.

These projects have allowed us to form valuable collaborations with colleagues around the globe, notably on rice leaf development, as well as the potential translation of our research into agriculture via commercial breeders and UK levy boards.


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Journal articles

All publications

Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers


Research group

Research Fellows

  • Sam Amsbury (BBSRC Discovery Fellow) Untangling the Plant Cell Wall


Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Matthew Wilson (BBSRC) - Shape Shifting Stomata: The Role of Geometry in Plant Cell Function
  • Jen Sloan (Royal Society)- Breeding Rice Resilient to a High CO2 Future

Research Technicians

  • Marion Bauch (Research Lab Manager): Shape Shifting Stomata
  • Jodie Armand (Research Technician): Shape Shifting Stomata

PhD students 

  • Sarah Carroll (BBSRC-DTP) - Shifting shape with cell walls: imaging the dynamics of guard cell movement (co-supervisor Julie Gray)
  • Shiv Gangarparsad (Leverhulme CABM) Spatiotemporal modelling of air channel network function and optimisation (co-supervisors Visakan Kadirkamana & Bryn Jones)
  • Shauni McGregor (BBSRC-DTP) Investigating the structure of grass stomatal cell walls (co-supervisor Julie Gray)
  • Tom Grand (BBSRC CASE with AHDB) The mechanism of cell cycle repression by sprouting inhibitors (co-supervisor Lisa Smith)
  • Saranrat Im-Chai (Thai Government) Using metabolite imaging to test a 3D spatial model of photosynthesis
  • James Pitman (BBSRC CASE with AHDB) From metabolic markers to growth suppression in potato (co-supervisor Heather Walker)
  • Shanshan Wang Improving photosynthesis and water-use efficiency in rice
  • Emma White (BBSRC CASE with RAGT Seeds) Improving water-use efficiency in wheat by modulating leaf structure


MRes and MBiol Sci students

  • Alexander Williams
  • Inesh Amaranth
  • Qi Ngai
  • BBSRC Newton Trust, A 3-D model of photosynthesis to Inform breeding for improved rice performance in a changing climate (2016-2019)
  • Wolfson Foundation, Plant Phenotyping Platform (2016-2017)
  • BBSRC-iCASE Award, Engineering the rice leaf for improved photosynthesis (2016-2020)
  • BBSRC-iCASE Award, Imaging Metabolism in Plants (2016-2019)
  • BBSRC-iCASE Award, Engineering a better wheat leaf (2015-2019)
  • BBSRC-CASE award, Developmental metabolomics of the meristem (2014-2018)
  • Gatsby Foundation, Optimising leaf structure for photosynthesis (2013-2017)
  • BBSRC-CASE award, Optimisation of crop leaf form for improved photosynthesis (2012-2016)
  • BBSRC, Optimising photosynthetic efficiency via leaf structure (2012-2015)
  • BBSRC Industrial Partnership Award, Atomic Force Microscopy analysis of plant tissue (2010-2014)
  • Leverhulme Trust, Molecular analysis of club root infection in Arabidopsis (Co-PI) (2009-2012)
  • Yorkshire Forward, Optimising fibre quality in renewable energy crops (2009-2011)
  • European Union, Marie Curie Award, MolCalm (2009-2011)
  • BBSRC Industrial Partnership Award, Imaging metabolism in the meristem (2008-2012)
Teaching activities

I am a developmental biologist. This involves the study of how something apparently simple (a cell) becomes something incredibly complicated (a mature, multicellular organism) in a robust and reproducible fashion. My interest is in plant development, but one of the lessons of the past decades has been how developmental concepts can be applied across the whole of biology, and it is understanding these unifying (and yet distinctive) approaches to solving common developmental problems that underpin my teaching (and my research).

I currently teach on the following modules:

  • APS137 Plant Physiology, Reproduction & Growth (module co-ordinator)
  • APS135 Level 1 Tutorials
  • APS222 Level 2 Tutorials
  • APS355 Future Plants: From laboratory to field
  • APS331 Level 3 Dissertations
  • APS345 Level 3 Projects
  • APS402 Level 4 Dissertations
  • APS406 Level 4 Projects
  • APS6602 MRes Literature Reviews
  • APS609 MRes Research Projects
  • APS6623 Special issues in Global Food Security 
  • APS6624 Crop science, biotechnology & breeding (module co-ordinator)
Professional activities and memberships
  • Gatsby Plant Science Mentor
  • Advisory Board “New Phytologist”
  • White Rose BBSRC DTP Management Board
  • Advisor to the Commonwealth Scholarship Committee (2014-present)
  • Treasurer of the British Society for Developmental Biology (2009-2014
  • BBSRC PMS committee/committee B core member (2007-2011)
  • British Society for Developmental Biology, Committee member (2004-2014)
  • Invited Co-Editor for Current Opinion in Plant Biology (2010)
  • Associate Editor of Plant Molecular Biology (2009-2013)
  • The Society for Experimental Biology, Plant Gene Structure and Function Co-Convenor (2006-2010)
  • Referee for various international journals and funding agencies (2004-present)
Honours and awards
  • Leverhulme Research Fellow, Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge University (2015-16)
  • Visiting Fellowship, Clare Hall (2015-16)
  • Director of the Robert Hill Institute (2013-present)
  • Swiss National Science Foundation START Fellowship (1998-2004)
  • EMBO Fellowship, University of Wageningen, The Netherlands (1990)
  • Bye-Fellowship Magdalene College (1986)
  • Scholarship Magdalene College (1982-1984)