Natural light is highly dynamic and often in excess, resulting in damage to pigments, proteins, and lipids within the chloroplast. To cope with saturating light, plants dissipate excess energy through a process called non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). Our lab and collaborators have shown that if we modulate the kinetics of NPQ we can increase growth in the field-grown model crop Nicotiana tabacum by 15%. Given this success, the Niyogi lab is interested in improving the recovery of slowly-relaxing photoinhibitory quenching – caused by high light damage to core photosynthetic machinery and subsequent reduction in CO2 assimilation. However, the mechanisms underlying photoinhibition are poorly understood. First-time undergraduate researchers will work alongside a graduate student to identify and characterize genes involved in NPQ and photoinhibition.
Motivated undergraduates will be involved in screening transgenic Nicotiana tabacum and Nicotiana benthamiana lines for differences in photosynthetic capacity and high-light tolerance. Mentees will learn and apply 1) PCR for cloning and genotyping, 2) Analysis of photosynthetic efficiency by chlorophyll fluorescence and gas exchange, 3) protein analysis techniques such as SDS-PAGE and western blotting, and 4) biochemical assays for in vitro investigation of photosynthetic complex structure and function. Additional biochemical techniques, as well as opportunities for independent research projects, may also be incorporated based on mentee interest and as the project develops.
Minimum qualifications: Biology 1A or 1B (may be taken concurrently), 3.0 GPA, and interest in genetics. Hours are
negotiable, but a commitment of at least 12 hours per week is expected.