Nicola Atkinson

Research Assistant
Wenbo Ma Group

The development of novel gene-editing technology and its application to improving resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses is a priority research area considering current climate change predictions and growing global needs in food and feed production.  My current interests are in enhancing the potential of molecular tools, particularly crop transformation and construct optimisation, towards these aims.

I have a background in plant tissue culture previously studying genetic variation arising in tissue culture regenerated high-transposing lines of Antirrhinum majus during my PhD.  Following this I developed a sugar beet transformation system for British Sugar focussing on improving nutritional value for the feeds industry before taking a career break for family.

I completed a Daphne Jackson fellowship retraining programme within the Department of Crop Genetics at the JIC in June 2019, enabling me to return to a career in plant science research after my career break.  Through the fellowship I expanded my skills in Agrobacterium-mediated transformation to include barley and wheat and gained new skills in gene-editing technology within a project aimed at contributing to our knowledge surrounding drought tolerance mechanisms in the cereals.  I then joined the ENSA (Engineering Nitrogen Symbiosis for Africa) team at the JIC to troubleshoot the current Medicago and barley transformation systems, efficient gene-transfer being an essential tool for the elucidation of the molecular pathways involved in nitrogen fixation.

Currently I am a Senior Research Assistant (Maternity Cover) within The Sainsbury Laboratory supporting a range of projects aimed at disease resistance in crops and assisting in general laboratory management.
+44 (0) 1603 450430


Hayta S, Smedley M, Demir SU, Blundell R, Hinchliffe A, Atkinson N, Harwood W (2019)

An Efficient and Reproducible Agrobacterium-mediated Transformation Method for Hexaploid Wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Plant Methods

Newbury H.J, Aitkin EAB, Atkinson NJ, Ford- Lloyd BV (1992)

Micropropagation of Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus L.) In: Bajaj, YPS (ed) Biotechnology in agriculture and forestry, volume 20. High-tech and micropropagation IV. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg New York, pp19-33.

Atkinson NJ, Newbury HJ, Ford-Lloyd BV (1991)

In vitro adventitious root induction in Antirrhinum majus L. Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 27: 77-79.

Atkinson NJ, Ford-Lloyd B, Newbury HJ (1989)

Regeneration of plants from Antirrhinum majus L. callus. Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture 17: 59-70.

Job History

2019 – present Research Assistant, The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, UK

2019 – present Research Assistant, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK

2017 – 2019 Daphne Jackson Fellow, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK

1991 – 1997 Research Scientist, British Sugar Technical Centre, Norwich, UK

1990 – 1991 Post Doctoral Researcher, Birmingham University, UK