Dr Lee Hickey
Dr Lee Hickey

Dr Lee Hickey

Research Fellow, CPS

Dr Hickey is an emerging leader in the winter cereals genetics space. He is homegrown Aussie talent - having completed all three of his degrees at the University of Queensland.

Dr Hickey gained a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Plant and Soil Major, Class I Honors) from The University of Queensland in 2007. His fourth-year research project developed new screening methodology for grain dormancy in wheat grown under controlled environmental conditions, for which he received an Undergraduate Honours Scholarship from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) and was awarded the Bell Memorial Medal (presented by the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology) and the Ben Brown Memorial Medal (presented by The University of Queensland).









In 2007, Lee was Valedictorian for the Faculty of Biological and Chemical Sciences and the Faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Science at The University of Queensland.

In 2008, Lee was awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) and a Grains Research Top-Up Scholarship from the GRDC and started a PhD in plant breeding and genetics at The University of Queensland. He later deferred study to complete a maize-breeding internship with Pioneer Hi-Bred (Dallas Center, IA, USA). Upon return to Australia, Lee resumed his PhD and initiated an international collaborative research project between DAFFQ, UQ, University of Sydney and INIA (Uruguay), which focussed on identifying genomic regions influencing target traits in barley. Outcomes from this project included; characterisation of the first adult-plant resistance gene to leaf rust in barley (i.e. Rph20), identification of QTL for partial resistance to powdery mildew and novel QTL for grain dormancy.

 Dr Hickey is now a Research Fellow with QAAFI at The University of Queensland, and is leading the Winter Cereals Pre-Breeding Program. His is focussed on developing a program of discovery, applied and contract research in the area of winter cereal pre-breeding for key biotic and abiotic traits. He currently supervises 8 PhD students working on these important target traits across both wheat and barley.

Lee is also a member of the Queensland Crawford Fund Queensland Committee and is an advocate of communicating science to the general public, particularly the younger generation. He is an active user of social media, which he uses to communicate his research via Twitter and Facebook.



To date, Dr Hickey's research has focussed on improving the efficiency of plant-breeding programs and identifying marker-trait associations in the winter cereal crops of wheat and barley.

Dr Hickey has applied modern plant-breeding technologies to accelerate genetic gain in wheat, such as 1) rapid generation advance under controlled environmental conditions (Hickey et al. 2009); 2) high-throughput phenotypic screening methods (Hickey et al. 2011b); 3) innovative crossing strategies (Hickey et al, unpublished); and 4) high-throughput DNA marker platforms. Recently, in collaboration with Dr Mark Dieters (UQ), the research duo combined these 4 technologies to develop 3 sets of wheat introgression lines (i.e. EGA Gregory, Wyalkatchem and H45 genetic backgrounds) carrying high levels of resistance to rust (leaf, stem, stripe) and grain dormancy for resistance to pre-harvest sprouting. The elite wheat lines are currently in advanced stages of evaluation by two wheat breeding companies and one farmer cooperative seed company. It is anticipated this material will lead to the release of the first Australian bread wheat variety that is resistant to pre-harvest sprouting, possibly available to farmers as soon as 2016.

Using similar approaches Dr Hickey developed a set of barley introgression lines (for multiple foliar disease resistance) in the background of Scarlett (a European malting variety). These lines are currently being evaluated for yield and malt quality in Argentina – where Scarlett is currently grown to about 90% of the Buenos Aires Province.

Dr Hickey's current research projects funded by GRDC are providing the following outcomes to industry:

  • Delivery of wheat introgression lines for root traits that contribute to water limited yield stability
  • Delivery of elite barley germplasm incorporating multiple foliar disease resistance
  • Delivery of DNA markers for minor genes interacting with adult plant resistance gene Rph20 in elite barley breeding germplasm
  • 2013: National Finalist (1 of 12) for Fresh Science Competition
  • 2013: Awarded the Paul Johnston Memorial Award
  • 2011: Finalist for The University of Queensland UniQuest Trailblazer Competition
  • 2008: Australian Postgraduate Award
  • 2008: Grains Research Top-Up Scholarship (GRS) awarded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation
  • 2007: Valedictorian for the Faculty of Biological and Chemical Sciences and the Faculty of Natural Resources, Agriculture and Veterinary Science, The University of Queensland
  • 2007: Awarded the Ben Brown Memorial Medal for Agricultural Science, presented by The University of Queensland
  • 2007: Awarded the Bell Memorial Medal, presented by the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology
  • 2007: Awarded the Edwin Munro Scholarship in Agricultural Science, presented by The University of Queensland


Dr Lee Hickey
Research Fellow
Winter Cereals Pre-Breeder
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI)
Room S513, Level 5, Hartley Teakle Building [#83]
The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
Tel: +61 7 3365 4805 Fax: +61 7 3346 0539  Mob: 0408 210 286
Email: l.hickey@uq.edu.au
UQresearchers profile


HICKEY, Lee section

Women getting to the root of global hunger

16 June 2015
The challenge of feeding a world population set to hit nine billion by 2050 is driving University of Queensland research that could revolutionise cereal production. Four female UQ scientists are tackling the problem by getting to the root of the issue – studying wheat and barley roots to improve crop quality and productivity in a changing environment.

World-first technique to help drought-proof wheat

6 April 2015PhD candidate Cecile Richard with one of the opaque plastic pots she uses to plot wheat root growth
A University of Queensland scientist has developed a method to help grain growers become more resilient to expected changes in climate. PhD candidate Cecile Richard’s technique is cheap, simple and allows scientists to better adapt grain crops, such as wheat, to drought conditions. The method uses a system of clear-plastic pots, which allows scientists to see through the pot wall and view the roots of the plant.

Gates Foundation supports wheat leadership

17 Dec 2013
QAAFI Research Fellow Lee Hickey has been honoured with an invitation to take part in a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation international workshop for early career scientists. The three-day wheat leadership workshop in Heidelberg, Germany (16-19 Dec) is designed to help researchers deal productively with challenges related to interpersonal aspects of their work.

Scientists unveil new way to grow quality wheat faster

10 Sep 2013
QAAFI scientists have discovered a fast way to develop a new strain of wheat that is resistant to stripe rust and pre-harvest sprouting. The research team developed the wheat product using a new breeding strategy that slashes development time from more than 10 years to just two-and-a-half years. Dr Lee Hickey, from UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, said the technology was set to benefit farmers in the next few years with field trials being grown in Victoria and New South Wales.

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