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Dr Karen Aitken is a Principal Research Scientist in CSIRO Agriculture and Food, based in Brisbane.

Karen completed her PhD at the John Innes Centre in the UK working on wheat genetics she then moved to the USA where she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis working on molecular genetics. Karen joined CSIRO to work on sugarcane genetics and disease interactions. She has led a series of collaborative projects aimed at understanding the complex polyploid genome of sugarcane. She led the development of the first sugarcane SNP array which is being used for selection of high sucrose and disease resistance in a number of sugarcane breeding programs.

Achievements and Awards

  • 2010-2011

    Queensland International Fellowship
    Queensland Government

  • 2012-2012

    Presidents Medal for best publication
    Australian Society of Sugarcane Technologists

Current Roles

  • Project Leader
    SRA2018/005 Genetic analysis and marker delivery for sugarcane breeding

  • Project Leader
    SRA2018/006 Selecting high value chromosomes from Saccharum species

  • Principal Investigator (PI)
    United States Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute community science program, 502967 Understanding polyploidy through the generation of the first sugarcane genome sequence

Professional Experiences

  • 2014-present

    Molecular Biology Committee
    International Society of Sugarcane Technologists


  • 2018-2022

    Genetic analysis and marker delivery for sugarcane breeding, SRA

  • 2018-2020

    Selecting high value chromosomes from Saccharum species, SRA

  • 2014-2017

    Generation of a high thoughput SNP chip for introgression of resistance genes, SRDC, SRA

  • 2013-2018

    Applying the genome sequence for variety improvement: validation and implementation, SRA

  • 2014-2016

    The Sugarcane Hub, development of an interface between sugarcane genome sequence and sugarcane genetic data, SRA

  • 2014-2017

    Selecting high value chromosomes from wild introgression material to deliver more resistant varieties, SRA

  • 2012-2015

    Investigation of the genetic mechanisms of smut resistance in sugarcane, SRDC

  • 2012-2016

    Development and testing of a SNP marker platform in sugarcane, SRDC, SRA