Liam was Sherardian Professor of Botany at the University of Oxford and Professorial Fellow at Magdalen College from 2009 to 2020. Now he works at the Gregor Mendel Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Liam maintains strong links with Magdalen and contributes to the Pathways to Success Development and Leadership programme.
Liam and collaborators in his research group use genetics and palaeontology to discover how plants and their cells develop and evolve. They discovered:
• that reactive oxygen species produced by respiratory burst oxidases are required for plant cell growth
• the genetic network that controlled the formation of the first land plant rooting systems
• that the evolution of the first land plant rooting system enhanced silicate weathering and caused global cooling in the Ordovician period
• how root organs evolved from shoots of rootless ancestors
His research to understand the evolution of development requires the invention of new technologies. These technologies can be applied to other challenges in biology, medicine and agriculture. He founded MoA Technology – https://www.moa-technology.com – to apply these technologies to tackle the outbreak of existential levels of herbicide resistance among weeds that compromise food production and threaten the environment.
Liam is a trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the Crito Project for Prisoner Education, the New Phytologist Foundation and is a non-executive director at MoA Technology.