Courses and thesis projects of the Laboratory of Plant Physiology

The Laboratory of Plant Physiology teaches plant physiology to 1st and 2nd year BSc Biology, Plant Sciences and Forest & Nature Conservation students. Further, we contribute to a whole series of more specialized courses for 3rd year BSc, MSc and PhD students from several Study Programmes. In addition the lab provides diverse opportunities for BSc and MSc thesis projects.

Course Overview

BSc and MSc thesis subjects

The Laboratory of Plant Physiology offers a wide range of BSc and MSc thesis-, internship- and research practice subjects. We principally investigate plant-environment interactions and use a wide palette of techniques and plant species, -varieties and -mutants in our research. For a short introduction see the movie below. The subthemes within our research profile are listed below that. For current thesis projects see the TIP database. If you have any questions about doing a thesis, internship or research practice within our lab, don’t hesitate to contact us via our coordinator Dr Henk Hilhorst.

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Seed biology (Leónie Bentsink & Henk Hilhorst)

Seeds form the link between two successive generations of plants. Deciding when to germinate is key to the survival and success of the new generation. Our research topics address the following questions:
How is seed germination regulated? This includes processes such as seed dormancy and seed longevity since these affect the seed germination capacity.

  • What is the role of ribosome binding proteins in regulation of seed germination?
  • How are seed stored mRNAs protected and how does this link to the longevity of seeds?
  • The extreme tolerance of seeds to adverse external conditions is encountered in the vegetative tissues of a few select plants. What are the mechanisms behind this and the resulting effects on plant resilience?
  • The role of chlorophyll in seeds is still enigmatic but too much chlorophyll in ripe seeds may have a negative effect on seed performance. What are the functions of chlorophyll degradation during seed development?
  • How can we translate our knowledge on seed germination in model systems to improve germination of crop species?

> For more information see our Seed Biology research page.

Abiotic stress tolerance (Christa Testerink & Rumyana Karlova)

Salt stress and drought are major threats to global crop productivity. The roots of plants are on the front line for perceiving and countering these stresses. We investigate the mechanisms behind the remarkable flexibility of roots in adapting to abiotic stress. We investigate this at a fundamental level and also work on stress resilience in several crop species.

> For more information see our Roots in Salt website, abiotic stress tolerance theme page and that of our crop-resilience related research in the research section.

Chloroplast retrograde signalling (Charlotte Gommers)

The powerplants in the plant cell, the chloroplasts, are foundational to plant life. However, their functioning is highly sensitive to environmental factors such as light and salt. Communication from chloroplast to the nucleus of the hosting cell (termed retrograde signalling) is aiding to keep up chloroplast productivity. In addition, this signalling modulates other processes in the plant, giving a whole extra dimension to plant abiotic stress signalling. We are interested in:

  • The fundamentals of retrograde signals from chloroplast to nucleus, and their role during salt stress responses.
  • The impact of chloroplast retrograde signals on seedling establishment in (fluctuating) light.
  • The effect of environmental stresses on chloroplast development.

> For more information and contact details see the group’s website and Charlotte’s profile page.

Chemical communication (Iris Kappers)

The way in which plants communicate with each other and organisms in their environment is mostly through chemicals. Secondary metabolites play important roles in the interaction between plants and insects: to repel herbivorous insects and attract those that pollinate or prey on herbivores. We investigate the genetic diversity within the chemical pathways to produce these secondary metabolites. Further, we look into the trade-offs that the plant faces when allocating resources for chemical communication.

> For more information see our Chemical Communication research page.

Plant Metabolomics (Robert Hall)

Metabolomics is an analytical technique that gives insight into the metabolites present in plants and how metabolic pathways can be reprogrammed under changing external conditions. Given its untargeted nature, it is a powerful tool to unravel complex traits in plants for which background knowledge is often limited. This also includes traits important for the quality of food products, like flavour, aroma and allergenicity. We seek out innovations in metabolomic techniques and apply these in plant research where we aim to follow changes in plant biochemistry which can potentially be causal to phenotypic modifications.

> For more information visit our page, and go here for all Food Chemistry related thesis projects.