Dr Aiswarya Girija

Dr Aiswarya Girija

Strategic Research Fellow


Contact Details


I have a background in metabolomics, molecular biology, in vitro and in planta protein expression, enzyme modification and purification. I have gained experience in working with different plant species such as Arabidopsis, Oats, Wheat and Tef. I completed my PhD in Plant biotechnology (Kerala University, India) on ‘Isolation and functional characterization of Type III polyketide synthase (PKS) from Indian Gooseberry’. During my PhD, in 2015, I visited IBERS as a Newton-Bhabha fellow where I worked with Prof. Luis Mur on high-throughput metabolomics techniques. After finishing PhD in 2017, I joined as a post-doctoral researcher at MIGAL Galilee Research Institute, Israel where I was involved in studying the impact of high levels of methionine in Arabidopsis seeds. After that, in 2020, I wrote a project on Ethiopian gluten free orphan cereal, Tef which was awarded the HORIZON European Union Marie Curie Individual Post-doctoral fellowship (SUPERTEFF) https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/842118. The project involved screening a diverse tef germplasm (350 tef varieties) for nutritional diversity using metabolomics and also have combined phenomics and metabolomics tools in identifying the drought adaptive traits in tef.  I have developed a tissue culture pipeline from mature tef seeds to implement gene editing and has also contributed towards the whole genome sequencing of tef. I was actively involved in one of IBERS strategic research program in oats as part of ‘Grains4health’ project, where I investigated the drought induced responses in oats at seedling and grain filling stages. After finishing my MSCA project in 2023, I have joined as a Strategic Research fellow in IBERS where I will be investigating the stress adaptive mechanism and grain nutritional traits using a ‘multi-omics’ pipeline in one of the promising cereal, Oats. Through the MSCA project developed for Tef, I am also interested in applying similar pipeline in further developing this Ethiopian orphan cereal.

Additional Information

Interested in plants stress adaptation and nutrition? 

Undergraduate and Master student projects.

Enthusiastic students are welcome to carry out projects for a final year project or summer internship. I have lots of project ideas that can be tailored based on your interests. Please get in touch.

Looking for PhD or Post-Doc fellowships?

I am looking for people who have a passion for understanding plant development under stress environment and also on exploring nutrient rich gluten free crops like oats and teff.  If you are interested in applying for a PhD or Post - Doc fellowship with me, send a CV and a cover letter explaining  why you are interested and what you would like to study. I will get in touch to discuss the possible opportunities and funding options.


How ‘omics’ approaches can be used to breed climate resilient and nutrient rich crops?

Unpredictable climate changes impose stress in crops that can dynamically regulate various molecular events. I am interested to track the stress adaptive mechanism using ‘multi-omics’ strategies (phenomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics) in elucidating the metabolite-gene regulatory nodes that can confer stress resilience during different growth stages (grain filling, seedling).

Mapping the unknown fate of stress to future generations.
Plants can sense and remember the changes that occur in their environment. This memory is linked to the “epi-genome”. These epigenetic changes represent a “stress memory” which can be “forgotten” but can be reimposed by “reminders”. These reminders can be renewed by “priming” by physical and chemical processes. Priming events will induce the plant immune memory by reiterating key epigenetic modifications. These changes are not fully understood but represents an opportunity for a new approach to sustainable crop protection. My research focuses on identifying stress memory networks and epialleles that are associated with stress memory. Crucially, priming is a feasible and cost-effective strategy to enhance stress tolerance that could be readily exploited.

Alternative functional grains.
With the increase in lifestyle diseases like diabetes, cholesterol and rise in the consumption of more vegan food there is a demand for new functional plant-based foods. Over the last century research has been pioneered over the major crops, wheat and rice. Cumulatively, minor crops play important roles in global food security. Two such promising cereals are oats and tef. Oats are rich in dietary fibre like high glucan, calcium, oil, protein and antioxidants. Tef is a tiny sized gluten free grain from Ethiopia with high level of iron, calcium and protein. Sourdough fermentation is an emerging technology, and I am interested to identify the application of sourdough technology in developing functional plant-based foods. 


Girija, A, Jifar, H, Jones, C, Yadav, R, Doonan, J & Mur, LAJ 2022, 'Tef: A tiny grain with enormous potential', Trends in Plant Science, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 220-223. 10.1016/j.tplants.2021.11.011
Girija, A, Yadav, R, Corke, F, Doonan, J & Mur, LAJ 2021, 'Untargeted Metabolomic Profiling Reveals Variation in Metabolites Associated with Nutritional Values in Tef Accessions', Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, vol. 76, no. 4, pp. 536-539. 10.1007/s11130-021-00931-6
Girija, A, Han, J, Corke, F, Doonan, J, Yadav, R, Brook, J, Jifar, H & Mur, L 2022, 'Elucidating drought responsive networks in tef (Eragrostis tef) using phenomic and metabolomic approaches', Physiologia Plantarum, vol. 174, no. 1, e13597. 10.1111/ppl.13597
Girija, A, Vijayanathan, M, Sreekumar, S, Basheer, J, Menon, TG, Krishnankutty, RE & Soniya, EV 2022, 'Harnessing the natural pool of polyketide and non-ribosomal peptide family: A route map towards novel drug development', Current molecular pharmacology, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 264-291. 10.2174/1874467214666210319145816
Girija, A, Shotan, D, Hacham, Y & Amir, R 2020, 'The Level of Methionine Residues in Storage Proteins Is the Main Limiting Factor of Protein-Bound-Methionine Accumulation in Arabidopsis Seeds', Frontiers in Plant Science, vol. 11, 1136. 10.3389/fpls.2020.01136
More publications on the Research Portal