Professor Mike Burrell

School of Biosciences

Associate Researcher



  • B.A. (Cantab) in Natural Sciences (Hons in Botany) (1970).
  • M.A. (Cantab) Natural Sciences, Ph.D. (Cantab) (1973)
  • I.C.I. Ltd., Post Doctoral Research Fellow at Department of Botany, University of Sheffield (1973-1976)
  • Higher Scientific Officer and then Senior Scientific Officer, Rothamsted Experimental Station, (1976-1987)
  • Principal Scientist at Advanced Technologies (Cambridge) Ltd. (1987-2002)
  • Visiting Professor of Plant Biology at Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex. (2001)
  • Visiting Professor of Plant Biochemistry at Department of Biological Sciences, Royal Holloway College, University of London. (2002)
Research interests

My main research interest is to understand the control of plant metabolism in non photosynthetic storage organs such as tubers and seeds, in particular the control of sucrose metabolism and synthesis of starch.

The sucrose content of crops is central to their harvestable quality. In some cases it is beneficial to have a high content in others such as in potato tubers it is detrimental.

Starch is one of the most important plant products used by man. It provides a large proportion of his calorific intake, it is important as a feedstock for farm animals, it has diverse uses in industry such as food processing, papermaking, paints. Therefore both quality (type and uniformity) and quantity are important.

We have produced many lines of transgenic plants for this purpose but work with these has demonstrated clearly that control of metabolism is complex and that many cells in an apparently homogenous tissue are doing different things. Therefore it is very important to be able to study metabolism at the cellular level. To achieve this we have been collaborating with Dr M.R. Clench at Sheffield Hallam University who has been developing a new technique called Imaging Matrix Associated Laser Desorption Ionisation mass spectrometry (I-MALDI). In my group we have been developing the methodology for application to plant tissues. The technique involves moving a laser across the tissue in a programmed way at micron intervals and for every position collecting the molecules that are ionised. One can therefore build a two dimensional map of metabolism.