Various projects in the HPP - CSA photosynthesis lab

Various projects available:

  • advanced functional phenotyping
  • lab-based photosynthesis measuring techniques
  • in-depth physiological measurements/research on climate-plant-interactions
  • developing video’s/manuals/course material for using equipment

    If you are interested in cutting-edge research on photosynthesis in plants (at leaf-plant scale) and related advanced measuring techniques for functional phenotyping on plants, and if you would like to work in an inspiring work environment where collaboration, ambition, scientific curiosity and a positive team spirit are key values, than joining the shared HPP-CSA Photosynthesis lab for thesis (BSc or MSc) or Research Practice (MSc) might be something for you!
    The shared HPP-CSA photosynthesis lab is joint-initiative of the WUR-chair groups HPP and CSA. The lab focusses on photosynthesis at (sub) leaf - plant level and associated physico-physiological processes and combines advanced measuring techniques and data-analysis.

    For who?

    Every year, we welcome a (limited!) number of students that do their BSc- or MSc-thesis, or Research Practice in our lab. Our students have in common that they love plant physiology, enjoy conceptual thinking and like exploring, understanding and working with advanced measuring techniques and data-analysis tools. Many of them are driven by curiosity and wish to contribute to science, others see opportunities for applications in practice. Most of them share an ease to work with technical stuff and are not afraid for/to start using R and/or Phyton.
    Students in our lab usually have their own project and additionally contribute to developments in the lab by participating in discussions, helping with the development of new measuring procedures (hard- and software) and data-analysis. They also do their share in maintaining lab procedures, such as calibrations and maintaining a clean, healthy and safe lab environment. Many projects in our lab are related to ongoing research projects in the two contributing chair groups (CSA and HPP) and are somehow related to either high-tech plant production systems (vertical farming/greenhouses) or open field agro-eco systems. Occasionally, we contribute to/collaborate with other chair groups.

    Examples of types of projects (in which BSc- and MSc students participated, currently participate, or may participate in future):

    Fluxes in Leaf Photosynthesis - getting the full picture: Integrating multiple optical measurement techniques (Chlorophyll Fluorescence (PSII), absorbance changes (PSI) and Electrochromic Shift) with gas exchange for simultaneous measurements of CO2, H2O, electron and proton-fluxes in photosynthesis.

    Opportunities for CAM-photosynthesis in a changing world: Investigate the regulation of CO2-fixation in CAM-photosynthesis under non-natural spectral/daylength light conditions using combined techniques including stable-C-isotope fractionation in gas fluxes (see larger project description).

    Many&Fast or Few&Slow or ..? The Internet Of Things, drones and miniaturization of measuring equipment: the collection of physiological measurement data now seems much easier, and much faster, on a much larger scale, than we could dream about twenty years ago. The sky seems the limit. How does this workout for photosynthesis measurements? Our photosynthesis lab aims to produce dedicated, high quality data. Our techniques and procedures are usually not very fast, neither is our measuring equipment and are our procedures very suitable for large scale screening or intensive measuring campaigns in the field, greenhouse or vertical farm (though, there are exceptions!). New relative low-cost optical photosynthesis equipment with amazing possibilities, can theoretically measure similar attributes (Chlorophyll Fluorescence, PSI-efficiency, Electrochromic Shift etc) as our HQ-lab equipment. We are looking for students that would like to explore the real potential of this type of equipment in the type of research our groups do. We have the handheld equipment (see: Photosynq on the web) available in our lab.

    Chlorophyll Fluorescence Imaging towards the next level: Developing advanced measuring protocols for Chlorophyll-fluorescence-Imaging to measure time series (sec to day) of adaptations to changes in the light environment (spectral and intensity)). This project involves programming and testing scripts that precisely time LED-light illumination, image captures (camera control) and measuring (light) pulses. Though this seems a primarily hard- and software-related project, the physical-, physiological, and measuring theory make this a nice project and promises a steep learning curve for the students that choose this challenge.

    Mesophyll conductance: One of the main physiological processes limiting CO2 uptake in photosynthesis is the mesophyll conductance. In our lab we have the possibility to measure the mesophyll conductance using stable CO2 isotopes. This involves doing gas exchange measurement with a Licor photosynthesis system, trapping CO2 in a cold trap to purify the CO2, measure the CO2 isotope ratios using a mass spectrometer (IRMS) and analyzing the results using R or python. This requires both good technical skills and a good understanding of plant physiology.

    Open-Abs: an open source method to quickly measure leaf absorptance: Visible light is readily absorbed by leaves and used in photosynthesis. This light varies greatly in intensity over time and e.g. within a canopy. As leaves acclimate to light, their absorption of light is altered. Not only the total amount of light absorbed is changed, but also the absorption of different colours of light may change. In order to assess the changes that occur in light acclimation, a quick and easy measurement is needed. Up to date, leaf absorptance measurements have only been possible with expensive and rare specialist equipment, such as a Taylor integrating sphere. As a result, this type of measurement is rarely performed in plant science. Moreover, there is currently no off-the-shelf equipment that can do this measurement in a simple manner.
    These type of spheres used to be quite expensive, as well as spectrometers of sufficient resolution and accuracy. With the emergence of 3D printing and low-cost miniature spectrometers, this is no longer the case. These advances open the opportunity to develop an affordable open source integrating sphere system that can measure spectral leaf absorbance. The low cost of such system can increase the number of systems and in turn allow for more (rapid) leaf absorptance measurements to be taken over time and space, providing opportunity to collect large amounts of data that can give new insight into the development and acclimation of leaves to light. In this thesis you will develop, build and test a reliable, easy to use, open source method to instantly measure spectral leaf reflectance, transmittance and absorptance, that can be operated under a range of conditions (e.g. in the field)

    Creating courses and e-materials for lab-users: there is a lot of interest in the Wageningen Plant Science community for the type of measurements that we do and develop in our lab. To help future users of equipment in our lab, a lot of materials need to be developed. This includes manuals, tutorials, video’s etc. that can be used in regular courses, but also to train future thesis students (all levels) and guest researchers that come for specific measurements. We are searching for students that combine interest in our measuring techniques with interest in science communication and education and creativity.

    For all types of projects we are searching for enthusiastic, scientifically-curious MSc and BSc-students with interest in fundamental (leaf level) physiological research on photosynthesis. Affinity with advanced technical work and related problem solving is strongly recommended. You are welcome to contact one of the lab members for more information.

    Starting possibilities: in consultation. Note that the number of students per year is restricted and timely planning is required.

Interested in doing a BSc or MSc thesis at HPP? Please contact the HPP student coordinator Katharina Hanika.