Professor Howard Atkinson

Professor Howard Atkinson


I obtained my 1st degree in Zoology and a PhD at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne where I also worked for two years as a postdoctoral scientist. Throughout that time I worked on the comparative physiology of two marine nematodes of one genus. The emphasis was on the functional significance of the haemoglobin possessed by the species living in marine sediments that was not present in the second species from a rocky shore environment.

I was appointed to a lectureship at the University of Leeds in 1972 to work on plant parasitic nematodes. I founded the Plant Nematology Lab. and later co-founded The Centre for Plant Sciences at this university. My interests underpinned by many postdoctoral and postgraduate students and interdisciplinary research with other members of academic staff has been centred on the interaction of nematodes with plants and in particular their control. The group has worked on different economic species not just in the UK but also in Africa, USA, South America, India and China. The range of crops has included potato, soybean, rice, dessert and cooking bananas, plantains and pineapple. I hold the research medal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England for my work supporting the UK potato industry

I retired from full-time work in 2010 having enjoyed a career teaching in an atmosphere of research. Since then my effort has concentrated solely on research in support of the efforts of the Plant Nematology Lab. now led by Prof Urwin.

Further information concerning Prof. Atkinson's research is available at the Plant Nematology Lab web site.

Research interests

One long-standing thread in the research effort of myself and co-workers has been the application biotechnology to control plant parasitic nematodes which was initiated by from the mid-nineteen eighties after being seconded to one of the original biotechnology companies founded the USA. A particular interest has been the development of appropriate technology for the developing world to be made available as public research for public good on a not-for-profit basis. A key example of this has been our work on transgenic cooking bananas and plantains for Africa working with both UK and USA government funding. These bananas are staple food for about 80 million Africans and nematodes reduce yields by about 50% with no natural resistance or other control options available to growers.

Another example interest that is not biotechnology related has been the management of potato cyst nematodes (PCN) in the UK. They are the most damaging and uncontrollable of the UK potato crop. Recently we have looked at the likely impact of climate change on their future reproductive success on the crop. This has been followed by effort to improve a potato cyst nematode management tool used by UK growers to help plan cropping with minimal damage from PCN

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BSc in Zoology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1967)
  • PhD in Pure Science, University of Newcastle upon Tyne (1972)