Breath of future life

Plant biologist Tiago Tomaz takes a break before his US study trip. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d398269
Plant biologist Tiago Tomaz takes a break before his US study trip. Picture: Andrew Ritchie www.communitypix.com.au d398269

He wondered where the air we breathed came from and what role plants played in supplying it?

Sixteen years on and the Beeliar resident has taken that curiosity to a level far greater than he ever imagined he would.

After completing a bachelor of science at UWA, majoring in biochemistry and pharmacology with honours, then a PhD in plant biochemistry, the plant biologist’s research into the way plants breathe and produce energy may one day be used to create plants better equipped to withstand environmental challenges associated with climate change.

For his efforts, Dr Tomaz was awarded a 2013 Fulbright WA Scholarship, allowing him to study at the University of Illinois for 12 months from January next year.

He will be involved in a research project aiming to enhance the ozone tolerance capabilities of maize, one of the world’s major cereals.

‘It was a great relief completing my PhD thesis last year, as it has been a lifelong ambition of mine to attain a higher degree in my mid-20s,’ said Dr Tomaz, who is currently working for the Department of Agriculture and Food.

‘I’m really looking forward to working at the University of Illinois. The institution is one of the world leaders for research into how major crops can be adapted to future climates.

‘In terms of some of my PhD work, my driving force has been the enhancement of crop productivity to feed our growing planet in an environmentally friendly manner.

‘It’s always great to make a new discovery and be part of efforts of the international community to enhance crops and maintain global food security.’