Associate Professor Xue-Xian Zhang staff profile picture

Contact details +6492136593

Associate Professor Xue-Xian Zhang PhD

Associate Professor

School of Natural and Computational Sciences

Career Overview. I obtained my PhD degree at the State Key Laboratories of Agricultural Microbiology (Huazhong Agricultural University, Wuhan, China), and did my first post-doc research in RWTH Aachen University (Germany). My research in Germany was funded by the prestigious Alexander von Humboldt (AvH) scholarship. Next, I took up a post-doc position at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford (Oxford, UK). After spending five years in Europe, I accepted a job offer from the University of Auckland, and moved to New Zealand in 2003. Finally, I relocated to the Albany campus of Massey University in 2007, and currently work as an Associate Professor at the School of Natural and Computational Sciences (SNCS). Altogether, I have continuously pursued active research in Molecular Genetics & Microbiology for over 25 years at world-class universities. 

Research. The fundamental research in my lab is largely performed in the model organism of Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25, a plant growth-promoting and diseases-suppression bacterium originally isolated from sugar beet. Specifically, modern tools in molecular biology are used to elucidate the genetic and physiological responses of bacteria to the environment, aiming to provide insights into the nature of the complex environment itself. The applied research focuses on the use of copper-containing antimicrobial compounds and high-efficient microbial inoculants in agriculture. Our research is currently funded by MBIE Catalyst | Strategic (2019 – 2022) and Zespri Innovation Ltd (2019 – 2021).

Teaching and Supervision. I have been involved in undergraduate teachings in the broad fields of molecular biology, genetics and microbiology; and the supervision (and co-supervision) of masters and PhD students.

My primary expertise is in Molecular GeneticsMicrobiology. Current research in my lab focuses on:

  • The molecular mechanisms of bacterial adaptation to their natural environments, i.e. plant and soil;
  • Developing microbiological knowledge and technology to mitigate nitrate pollution of water from agriculture;
  • Enhancing the efficacy of copper bactericides for controlling the bacterial canker disease (Psa) in kiwifruits.
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Contact details

  • Ph: (09) 4140800 ext. 41191
    Location: 02, 14
    Campus: Albany


  • Doctor of Philosophy - Huazhong Agricultural University (1993)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

The microbiological research performed in my lab range from molecular genetics to ecology and evolution. The molecular work has been focused on the genetic characterization of genes involved in nutrients acquisition, and this long-term research was supported by a Marsden Fund grant of the Royal Society of New Zealand (2006-2010). The experimental evolution work uses the fast-growing bacterium as a model system, whereby some important questions in biological evolution have been addressed. These include the evolutionary mechanisms of cooperation (and cheating), bet hedging, the roles of immigration in biological diversification, and the effects of genetic constraints on evolutionary trajectories. Moreover, we have been actively involved in ecological research on the dynamic changes of soil microbial community in response to climate changes.

We are currently developing novel microbiological techniques that can help manage the bacterial canker disease (Psa) in kiwifruit orchards in New Zealand (funded by Zespri) and mitigate nitrate pollution of water (funded by MBIE Catalyst | Strategic).

Research Opportunities

  • Assessing the effects of copper on biofilm formation by Psa, a pathogenic bacterium of kiwifruit  (28/02/2021) Bacterial biosensors will be developed to measure bioavailable copper concentrations on kiwifruit leaves, and assess the effects of copper on bacterial biofilm formation


Resource Development and Management, Health and Well-being, Future Food Systems

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Biogeography and Phylogeography (060302): Biological Sciences (060000): Community Ecology (060202): Ecology (060200): Evolutionary Biology (060300): Evolutionary Impacts of Climate Change (060306): Genetics (060400): Microbial Genetics (060503): Microbiology (060500)


Molecular Genetics, Protein/DNA Interactions, Plant-Microbe Interactions, Microbiology, Experimental Evolution, Microbial Ecology

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 4 10

Consultancy and Languages


  • English
    Last used: now
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent
  • Chinese
    Last used: 2000
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching Statement

I am coordiating two papers 122.231 (Genes and Gene Expression) and 203.342 (Molecular and cellular Biology), and also invovled in the teaching of 162.214 (Biology of Microorganisms) and 246.302 (Research Themes in Natural Sciences)

Courses Coordinated

Summary of Doctoral Supervision

Position Current Completed
Main Supervisor 1 1
Co-supervisor 4 2

Current Doctoral Supervision

Main Supervisor of:

  • Kiran Sreeja Jayan - Doctor of Philosophy
    Characterization of genes for the utilization of histidine and its metabolites in a human pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1

Co-supervisor of:

  • Indika Serasinghe Mudiyanselage - Doctor of Philosophy
    Investigation into the development of probiotic starter culture for industrial production of sauerkraut
  • Huei-Yi Lai - Doctor of Philosophy
    Mechanisms of maintaining antibiotic resistance without antibiotic selection
  • Farhad Sadeghpour Golzar - Doctor of Philosophy
    Experimental Evolution Under Predation in Pseudomonas Fluorescens SBW25

Completed Doctoral Supervision

Main Supervisor of:

  • 2019 - ~ Naren - Doctor of Philosophy
    Regulation of histidine catabolism in Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25

Co-supervisor of:

  • 2020 - Amber Paulson - Doctor of Philosophy
    Temperature- and host-dependent transcriptional responses in the entomopathogenic bacterium, Yersinia entomophaga MH96
  • 2015 - Yunhao Liu - Doctor of Philosophy
    Molecular mechanism of xylose utilization in a plant growth-promoting bacterium Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25

Media and Links

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