Young research investigators honored at the 2011 Gordon research conference on photosynthesis: ambiance and a perspective
Using photographs taken at the conference site, we provide a perspective on (i) the awards that were given to four young investigators at the 2011 Gordon Research Conference on Photosynthesis, and (ii) the ambiance at this conference, held at Davidson College, North Carolina, during June 12–17, 2011.
KeywordsAaron M. Collins Nicholas J. Cox Joshua K. Endow Yan Lu
Gordon Conferences on Photosynthesis have taken place since 1969 (see: http://www.grc.org/conferences.aspx?id=0000207) These conferences are traditionally limited in size to 100–150 participants and are very intense with morning and evening sessions, as well as poster sessions in the afternoons with ample opportunity for one-to-one discussions during the afternoons and late evenings often going past midnight.
From the present to the past, photosynthesis conferences were chaired by: Krishna (Kris) K. Niyogi (2011); Doug Bruce (2009); Willem (Wim) F. J. Vermaas (2008); R. David (Dave) Britt (2006); Sabeeha Merchant (2005); Marilyn Gunner (2003); Donald (Don) A. Bryant (2002); Gary W. Brudvig (2000); John H. Golbeck (1999); Melvin (Mel) Okamura (1997); Charles (Charlie) F. Yocum (1996); Marion C. Thurnauer (1994); Bruce A. Diner (1993); Robert (Bob) E. Blankenship (1991); William (Bill) A. Cramer (1990); Colin A. Wraight (1988); Richard (Dick) Malkin (1987); Gerald (Jerry) T. Babcock (1985); Richard (Dick) Dilley (1984); Paul A. Loach (1983); Richard (Dick) E. McCarty (1981); William (Bill) W. Parson (1980); David (Dave) W. Krogmann (1978); Roderick (Rod) Clayton (1975); Anthony (Tony) San Pietro (1973); and Donald (Don) R. Keister (1969).
The 2011 conference was held during June 12–17, 2011, at the Davidson College, North Carolina. It was chaired by Krishna Niyogi, University of California at Berkeley and the Vice-Chair was Richard Debus, University of California at Riverside. The program and the list of participants of the conference are available at: http://www.grc.org/programs.aspx?year=2011&program=photosyn.
Below we provide a personal perspective on (i) the awards that were given to four young investigators at the 2011 conference; and (ii) the ambiance at this conference through some photographs.
We provide below brief statements about the academic background of the 2011 awardees; these are based on the information provided by the investigators themselves. We have arranged the awardees alphabetically.
Aaron M. Collins
Aaron Collins received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in 2010. His graduate work, with Professor Robert (Bob) Blankenship, involved biochemical and spectroscopic characterization of the photosynthetic apparatus from Roseiflexus castenholzii, a filamentous anoxygenic phototroph. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher at Sandia National Laboratories with Dr. Jerilyn Timlin. Aaron’s research involves using emerging microscopy techniques to understand the global distribution of photosynthetic complexes and pigments in vivo and how this distribution is related to overall function of these complexes. His Gordon Conference poster was on “Quantitative Biochemical Characterization of Chlamydomonas reinhardtii Mutants with Altered Antenna Size by Hyperspectral Confocal Fluorescence Microscopy.” In this collaborative work, with the laboratory of Prof. Richard (Dick) Sayre, at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, multivariate analysis and hyperspectral fluorescence microscopy were used to spectrally resolve, quantify and localize Photosystem II, Light Harvesting Complex II and carotenoid pigments in individual living cells of the green alga Chlamydomonas.
Nicholas J. Cox
Nick Cox received his Ph.D., in 2008, in Physical Chemistry from the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia under the supervision of Dr. Ron Pace and Prof. Elmars Krausz. Currently, he is a Post-doctoral fellow at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) of Bioinorganic Chemistry, in Mülheim/Ruhr, Germany, with Prof. Wolfgang Lubitz. Nick’s research is focused on the study of biological samples using both magneto-optical and magnetic resonance spectroscopy. His research interests include: exciton coupling within large pigment assemblies, the EPR (Electron Paramagnetic Resonance) of transition metals, particularly of metallo-cofactors, the EPR of radicals involved in electron transfer within the biological photosynthetic apparatus and recently the development of synthetic enzymes and catalysts. He is currently working on the application of high field EPR for the detection of substrate binding to the oxygen-evolving complex of Photosystem II. His Gordon Conference poster was entitled ‘‘Detection of Water Binding to Photosystem II, a Multifrequency 1H/2H/15N/17O-ENDOR Study; an Experimental Determination of the Protonation State of the S2 State.’’ This study represents a collaborative effort between the MPI Mülheim/Ruhr, CEA (Centre Energie Atomique), Saclay, France, Ruhr Universität Bochum, Germany and Umeå University in Sweden.
Joshua K. Endow
Joshua Endow received his B.S., in 2008, in Horticulture from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, USA. He is currently working toward a Ph.D. in Plant Biology in the laboratory of Professor Kentaro Inoue at the University of California, Davis, USA. Joshua is interested in how proteins are specifically sorted within the chloroplast to the correct compartment and orientation that allows them to perform photosynthetic and other functions. His dissertation study is focused on a protein called Plastidic type I signal peptidase 1 (Plsp1) that is fascinating both in its targeting to two chloroplast membranes and its role in removing the sorting signals of other proteins. Joshua is utilizing chloroplast protein import assays, genetic complementation, confocal microscopy, BN-PAGE (Blue native polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis) and co-immunoprecipitation to investigate these aspects of Plsp1. His Gordon Conference poster was titled ‘‘Towards Understanding the Mechanism of Sorting and the Functional Organization of Plastidic Type I Signal Peptidase 1.’’.
Yan Lu received her Ph.D. in Botany from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. During her Ph.D., she studied the pathway and regulation of starch degradation and maltose metabolism in the laboratory of Professor Thomas (Tom) D. Sharkey. After graduation, Yan has been working on a chloroplast functional genomics project in the laboratory of Professor Robert L. Last at the Michigan State University. The major focus of this project is parallel phenotypic screens of ~4000 Arabidopsis T-DNA insertion lines of nuclear-encoded plastid-targeted genes. While working on this project, Yan discovered a number of novel genes that are important for photosynthesis. The title of her 2011 Gordon Conference poster was “The Role of a Zinc Finger Protein in Photosynthesis and Light Stress Tolerance”. Yan’s work on the zinc finger protein was recently accepted by Plant Cell. This example shows that the functional genomics approaches can be used to identify previously unknown genes and mechanisms controlling photosynthesis and other chloroplast functions.
News Reports, when accompanied by photographs, always attract attention. See, e.g., (1) Govindjee, A.W. Rutherford and R.D. Britt (2007). Four young research investigators were honored at the 2006 Gordon Research Conference on Photosynthesis. Photosynth. Res. 92: 137–138; additional photographs are available at: http://www.life.illinois.edu/govindjee/g/Photo/Gordon%20Research%202006.html. (2) Govindjee (2009) Young research investigators honored at the 2008 and 2009 Gordon Research Conferences on Photosynthesis: ambiance and a personal perspective. Photosynth. Res. 102:1-6. Choice of photographs has always been a challenging job; it depends mainly upon their availability, and thus it often becomes a random choice, with no offence to others not pictured. In addition to the photographs shown in this News Report for the 2011 conference, the readers will find other photographs, especially of the soccer game at: http://sergei.physics.purdue.edu:7925/Gordon and of others at http://www.life.illinois.edu/govindjee/g/Photo/Gordon2011.html.
We wish success to Richard (Rick) Debus and David (Dave) Kramer, who will serve as Chair and the Vice-Chair, respectively, at the next Gordon Research Conference on Photosynthesis to be held in 2012 (July 8–13, Davidson College). In 2013, however, we hope to see everyone at the 16th International Photosynthesis Congress to be held in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA during August 11–16, 2013. The co-organizers of this congress are Bob Blankenship (St. Louis, Fig. 4) and Don Ort (Urbana, Illinois, USA). Information on previous international photosynthesis congresses can be found in Govindjee and D. Knaff (Photosynth. Res. 89: 1–2, 2006) and in Govindjee and H. Yoo (Photosynth. Res. 91: 95–105, 2007).
We end this News Report by expressing our appreciation to all of the attendees for valuable discussions on various aspects of photosynthesis at the 2011 conference. We thank Kris Niyogi and Rick Debus for their help with the section on the Awards. For the description on the Awardees, we are grateful to Aaron M. Collins, Nick Cox, Joshua Endow, and Yan Lu for providing us information on their academic activities. We thank Jacco Flipsen and Ineke Ravesloot, of Springer, for mailing the books for the 2011 awards to Alice Haddy; and we are grateful to Alice for bringing the books to the conference site. We thank Bob Blankenship for reading this manuscript before its publication and David Vinyard for his editorial work.