Alison Mary Smith

Alison Mary Smith (born 1954)[1] FRS[3] is Strategic Programme Leader at the John Innes Centre in Norwich and an Honorary Professor at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in the UK.[4]

Alison Smith
Alison Smith at the Royal Society admissions day in London for new fellows in 2016
Alison Mary Smith

1954 (age 6566)[1]
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge (PhD)
Scientific career
ThesisEffect of anaerobiosis on plant metabolism (1978)


Smith was educated at the University of Cambridge where she was awarded a PhD in 1978 for research into the effect of anaerobiosis on plant metabolism.[5]


Smith studies the metabolism in plants of starch and sucrose – the carbohydrate products of photosynthesis that fuel plant growth. Her research has uncovered metabolic pathways responsible for the synthesis and degradation of starch granules in plants. She showed that these processes in leaves are subject to complex control by the circadian clock over the day-night cycle, ensuring the availability of carbohydrate to fuel metabolism during the night. Her focus is now on the mechanisms underlying this control, and the way in which carbohydrate availability is integrated with other sources of information to determine rates and patterns of growth and development in plants.[3][6][7] Smith uses information from her fundamental studies to examine starch turnover in crop plants.

Current research on starch synthesis in cereal grains has the potential to increase crop yield, and to change important functional and nutritional properties of flour.[3] Her lab is also investigating the genetic, biochemical and molecular control of starch degradation in leaves and storage organs, and how this is coordinated with plant growth, germination and sprouting.[8]

With George Coupland, Liam Dolan, Nicholas Harberd, Jonathan D. G. Jones, Cathie Martin, Robert Sablowski and Abigail Amey, Alison is a co-author of the textbook Plant Biology.[4]

Awards and honours

Smith was appointed Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to plant biochemistry in the 2006 Birthday Honours[2] and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 2016.[3]

Personal life

Alison Smith is the daughter of conservation pioneer Ted Smith (1920-2015)[9] and the sister of arachnologist Dr Helen Smith.[10]


  1. Alison Mary Smith at Library of Congress Authorities
  2. "No. 58014". The London Gazette (Supplement). 17 June 2006. p. 12.
  3. Anon (2016). "Professor Alison M. Smith OBE FRS". London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 29 April 2016. One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from the website where:
    "All text published under the heading 'Biography' on Fellow profile pages is available under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License." --"Royal Society Terms, conditions and policies". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  4. Smith, Alison Mary; Coupand, George; Dolan, Liam; Harberd, Nicholas; Jones, Jonathan; Martin, Cathie; Sablowski, Robert; Amey, Abigail (2009). Plant Biology. Garland Science. ISBN 0815340257.
  5. Smith, Alison Mary (1978). Effect of anaerobiosis on plant metabolism (PhD thesis). University of Cambridge. OCLC 500566304.
  6. Alison Mary Smith's publications indexed by the Scopus bibliographic database. (subscription required)
  7. Tomlinson, Kim; Craig, Josephine; Smith, Alison M. (1997). "Major differences in isoform composition of starch synthase between leaves and embryos of pea ( Pisum sativum L.)". Planta. 204 (1): 86–92. doi:10.1007/s004250050233.
  8. "Professor Alison Smith". John Innes Centre. 21 November 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  9. "Ted Smith | Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust". Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  10. "Little Ouse headquarters project profile" (PDF).