Professor Stephen A Rolfe

School of Biosciences

Professor, Chair in Plant Science
+44 114 222 0039

Full contact details

Professor Stephen A Rolfe
School of Biosciences
Alfred Denny Building
Western Bank
S10 2TN
  • BSc (1984) Imperial College of Science and Technology, London
  • PhD (1988) University of Cambridge
  • European Molecular Biology Fellow, University of California Los Angeles (1988-1991)
  • Lecturer, Dept. Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield (1991-2003)
  • Senior Lecturer, School of Biosciences, University of Sheffield (2004-2022)
  • Director of Teaching, Dept. Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield (2008-2015)
  • Professor, Chair in Plant Science, School of Biosciences, University of Sheffield (2022-present)
Research interests

My research focuses on plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses using biological imaging techniques. I lead the P3 Wolfson Centre for Plant Disease Phenomics where we use high-throughput imaging to explore quantitative resistance to plant diseases. We use chlorophyll fluorescence and multi-spectral imaging to quantify disease development and the impact on host plants.

Current projects are focussed on diseases of Brassicas including clubroot and light leaf spot. My group also looks at microbial communities in natural environments using metagenomic approaches. This includes plant pathogen populations but also the root microbiome and degradation of xenobiotics in contaminated environments. Work in my group is funded by the BBSRC, the Wolfson Foundation, Bayer Crop Sciences, Shell Aviation and Airbus.


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Journal articles

All publications


Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers

  • Stassen J, Chatziavgerinos F, Ton J, Voigt C & Rolfe S (2019) Phenomics for plant quantitative disease resistance. Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, Vol. 32(10S) (pp 26-26). Glasgow, Scotland, 14 July 2019 - 18 July 2019. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Yassin M, Moffat EK, Stassen J, Rolfe S, Cromey M, Holden N, Valentine TA, Newton AC & Ton J (2019) Assessing the costs and benefits of chemical defence priming agents using emerging hyperspectral imaging technologies. Molecular plant-microbe interactions, Vol. 32(10) (pp S1.32-S1.32). Glasgow, Scotland, 14 July 2019 - 18 July 2019. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Moffat EK, Yassin M, Rolfe S, Stassen J & Ton J (2019) The impacts of quantitative disease resistance on downy mildew epidemiology in mixed host populations. MOLECULAR PLANT-MICROBE INTERACTIONS, Vol. 32(10) (pp 19-19) RIS download Bibtex download
  • McFarlane A, Thornton S & Rolfe S (2015) How will novel fuels and materials impact microbial contamination in aircraft fuel systems?. IASH 2015 - 14th International Symposium on Stability, Handling and Use of Liquid Fuels RIS download Bibtex download
  • Hall AR, Garcia ALM, Eley AR, Rogers ME, Rolfe SA & Geoghegan M (2011) The study of cells using scanning force microscopy. EUROPEAN BIOPHYSICS JOURNAL WITH BIOPHYSICS LETTERS, Vol. 40 (pp 149-149) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Morales-Garcia AL, Hall AR, Althagafi T, Geoghegan M & Rolfe SA (2011) SFM study of bacterial cell walls. EUROPEAN BIOPHYSICS JOURNAL WITH BIOPHYSICS LETTERS, Vol. 40 (pp 151-151) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Andrews JS, Pouran HM, Scholes J, Rolfe SA & Banwart SA (2009) Multi-factorial analysis of surface interactions in single species environmental bacteria and model surfaces. GEOCHIMICA ET COSMOCHIMICA ACTA, Vol. 73(13) (pp A44-A44) RIS download Bibtex download
  • Baxter CJ, Foyer CH, Rolfe SA & Quick WP (2001) A comparison of the carbohydrate composition and kinetic properties of sucrose phosphate synthase (SPS) in transgenic tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) leaves expressing maize SPS protein with untransformed controls. ANNALS OF APPLIED BIOLOGY, Vol. 138(1) (pp 47-55) RIS download Bibtex download


Research group
  • Luke Cartwright
  • Elisa Clagnan
  • Juan Mujica
  • Raisa Raisa
  • Christina Paparokidou
  • Sarah Sommer
  • Fokion Chatziavgerinos
Teaching activities

Dr Stephen Rolfe won the Departmental Teacher of Year award in 2007.

At level 1, I am module coordinator for APS135 Skills for Biologists 1 with responsibility for the IT aspects of the course.

At level 2 I teach APS206 Plant, Cell & Environment and APS216 Biotechnology and Food. These modules reflect my long–standing interest in plant molecular biology, physiology and biochemistry and cover everything from the perception of light by plants through to the adoption of GM crops in modern agriculture. This theme continues in level 3 where I teach APS308 Environmental Regulation in Plants.

In recent years my research has expanded to consider environmental microbiology, particularly contaminated environments. I teach the module APS325 Life in Extreme Environments where I cover everything from life in hot springs, deep sea vents, other planets (maybe…) to contaminated aquifers in Wolverhampton! I am also very interested in the ethics of biology and how this affects wider society. The module APS326 Biology and Ethics covers a wide range of ethical areas from the impact of advances in genomic sequencing on individuals rights through to patents and Intellectual Property Rights and how they affect developments in agriculture. The aim of this course is to introduce students to key ethical issues but then let them explore topics that are of particular interest or relevance to them.

I have supervised a number of level 4 MBiolSci students – for example last year Joanna Scales examined how clubroot, a disease of Brassicas, alters developmental pathways in its host.

Professional activities and memberships
  • External examiner Reading University (2014-2016)
  • External examiner SRUC (Scotland's Rural College), Edinburgh, UK (2016-present)