Associate Professor Dr Chen Jit Ern

Associate Professor Dr Chen Jit Ern

  • Associate Professor
Department of Biological Sciences


Dr Chen Jit Ern completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge working on identifying and characterising genes involved in lipid metabolism in diatoms and the green algae. After this, he took up a Post-Doctoral position in KAUST, Saudi Arabia, where he worked on the genetic transformation of the dinoflagellate Symbiodinium microadriaticum, the algal symbiont of corals, with the aim of identifying and isolating genes associated with increased heat-tolerance.

His main scientific interests are the use of molecular genetics and experimental evolution methods to answer questions related to algal metabolism and physiology, such as heat tolerance, viral resistance and secondary metabolite accumulation, and to compare these traits across microalgae from various evolutionary lineages. In addition, he is interested in the phylogenetics and biodiversity of algae groups, as well as the capability of transposable elements to drive faster-than-expected rates of evolution in clonally propagating algae. Dr Chen's current research is focused on further developing methods to understand the molecular basis of heat-tolerance in Symbiodinium as well as to use experimental evolution to isolate algal strains with new physiological characteristics. He is also leading an industrial collaboration to produce antiviral proteins using the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii as a bioproduction pathform.

Dr Chen is also a Research Fellow in the Jeffrey Sachs Center on Sustainable Development, where he coordinates and lectures several modules of the Master in Sustainable Development Management program.


Academic & Professional Qualifications

  • PhD in Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge (2014)
  • BA in Natural Sciences (Biological), University of Cambridge (2009)

Research Interests

  • Plant and algal molecular biology, genetics and genetic engineering
  • Coral-algal symbiosis
  • Algal phylogenetics and diversity
  • Transgenic protein biosynthesis
  • Experimental evolution

Notable Publications

  1. Herrera, M., Klein, S.G., Schmidt‐Roach, S., Campana, S., Cziesielski, M.J., Chen, J.E., Duarte, C.M. and Aranda, M., 2020. Unfamiliar partnerships limit cnidarian holobiont acclimation to warming. Global change biology, 26(10), pp.5539-5553.
  2. Chen, J.E., Barbrook, A.C., Cui, G., Howe, C.J. and Aranda, M., 2019. The genetic intractability of Symbiodinium microadriaticum to standard algal transformation methods. PloS one, 14(2), p.e0211936.
  3. Chen, J. E., Cui, G., Wang, X., Liew, Y. J., & Aranda, M. (2017). Recent expansion of heat-activated retrotransposons in the coral symbiont Symbiodinium microadriaticum. The ISME journal, 12(2), 639.
  4. Chen, J. E., & Smith, A. G. (2012). A look at diacylglycerol acyltransferases (DGATs) in algae. Journal of biotechnology, 162(1), 28-39.
  5. Brown, N. J., Newell, C. A., Stanley, S., Chen, J. E., Perrin, A. J., Kajala, K., & Hibberd, J. M. (2011). Independent and parallel recruitment of preexisting mechanisms underlying C4 photosynthesis. Science, 331(6023), 1436-1439.