Susan J. Murch

B.Sc. (1988) University of Guelph
M.Sc. (1996) University of Guelph
Ph.D. (2000) University of Guelph 

Dr. Susan J. Murch
Room 350, Fipke Centre for Innovative Research
Department of Chemistry
University of British Columbia 
3247 University Way
Kelowna, British Columbia

Tel: 250.807.9566

Research Programs 

Chemistry of Natural Non-Protein Amino Acids

The human diet is made up almost entirely of plants or animals that consumed plants and plant chemistry affects human health in several ways. Plants are the source of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that are essential to good health. Plants are also the source of more than 900 natural non protein amino acidnon-protein amino acids that protect plant tissues from environmental stress, insect or animal feeding, and may be toxic to humans.  β-methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA)  is a naturally-occurring non-protein amino acid that was originally discovered in cycad seeds and is produced by cyanobacteria that live in symbiosis with plants or are free living in fresh water and marine environments worldwide.  BMAA accumulates in natural food webs from cyanobacteria to plants to animals to people resulting in varying levels of exposure.  Our research is developing analytical methods to accurately quantify BMAA in food, environmental and medicinal samples.  

Chemical Regulation of Plant Signalling and Behaviour

Do plants have chemical mechanisms for sensing and responding to changes in their environments? This is a question that has stimulated a great deal of debate.  Our research is investigating how plants interact with the world through the production of specific chemical signals such as melatonin (N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine) and serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine).  In human brains, melatonin and serotonin are a neurotransmitters involved in circadian rhythms, sleep cycles, digestion and neurological health but little is known about their role in plant physiology.


Plant Chemistry for Food Security

Susan MurchBreadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is a staple food and traditional crop of the Pacific and an underutilized crop elsewhere. Breadfruit trees require minimal agricultural input, begin bearing fruit in two to three years, and are productive for many decades.  A single breadfruit tree produces 250-400 kg of nutritious fruit per year that can be roasted, boiled, dried, pickled, fermented into beer, fried into chips or ground into flour and used in baking.  The tropical regions with climates hospitable to breadfruit are also home to about 80% of the world’s hungry and a stable, nutritious, high-yielding, non-GMO food crop would make an enormous difference for hundreds of millions of people. The Breadfruit Institute holds the world’s largest and most diverse collection of breadfruit cultivars selected over millenia by the indigenous people of Oceana.  The video shows one of the elite breadfruit cultivars growing in aseptic plant tissue culture for long-term conservation and as the source of disease-free plant material for crop introduction.  In partnership with Global Breadfruit, breadfruit plants initiated in my lab are mass propagated and distributed worldwide.  To date more than 50,000 breadfruit trees have been planted in projects in 35 countries. 






Last reviewed shim11/28/2014 12:09:25 PM