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Plant Sciences and food security during climate change

The major challenge of ongoing climate change must be met with the sustainable, environmentally friendly production of healthy food, renewable energy and industrial raw materials.

In our modules of the major you will learn the molecular biological, biotechnological and bioinformatic methods to conduct research in this field.

Food security and health

One of the greatest challenges in the future, with the world’s population still increasing, is the sustainable, environmentally friendly production of food and feed that is adapted to the ongoing climate change.

Our research therefore aims at increasing plant productivity and food quality. To achieve this, one needs to understand what limits a plant's yield, particularly seed/grain yield, and how to optimize it. Moreover, plant food products need to have a high nutritional value for human health. The plants must also be more resilient to drought stress or diseases such as pathogen infestation.

To this end, researchers at HHU investigate flower/seed development and other aspects of plant development (Developmental GeneticsPlant Genetics), the transport of nutrients and nutritional content (Molecular PhysiologyCell and Interaction BiologyBotany), the defense mechanisms of plants against plant pathogens (Molecular Ecophysiology of PlantsBiochemical Plant PhysiologyMicrobiology) and observe the dynamic response of the plant to a changing environment (Plant Biochemistry).

Greenhousegas sequestration

Land plants represent the dominant biological carbon sequestration system on our planet, i.e. the massive removal of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and its deposit in plant biomass.

Hence, one focus of our research is to increase of photosynthetic productivity and its associated energy metabolism in plants. This is explored through plant physiological studies (Photosynthesis and stress physiology of plantsDevelopmental and molecular biology of plants), mechanistic elucidation of alternative photosynthetic pathways (Biochemical Plant PhysiologyPlant Biochemistry), and carbon deposition in the fibrous part of the plant (Plant Cell Biology and BiotechnologyBiological Data Science).

Energy and industrial raw materials

The plant biomass itself can be used sustainably as a renewable resource to replace fossil fuels such as oil, coal and/ or natural gas. Applications include the production of biofuels and basic chemical products for industry.

Resource allocation within a plant and conversion of plant biomass into raw materials is mathematically modeled (Quantitative and Theoretical BiologyComputational Cell Biology) and experimentally validated by synthetic biology approaches by reconstructing metabolic pathways in photosynthetic bacterial (Synthetic Microbiology), yeast (Plant Cell Biology and Biotechnology) and animal cells (Synthetic Biology).

Interactions of plants in their natural environment

To secure their survival and successfully reproduce, plants interact with their biotic and abiotic environment in manifold ways. The fascinating strategies of plants to defend themselves against herbivores and pathogens, share resources in communities with symbionts and other plants or adjust to changing climatic conditions are being explored and the plant signaling response networks unraveled (BotanyMolecular Ecophysiology of Plants).

From the lab to the field

The gained knowledge is transferred from the laboratory to the field, e.g. by improving plant yields through genetics including barley (Plant Genetics, Quantitative Genetics and Genomics of PlantsDevelopmental Genetics), through intelligent breeding of corn (Quantitative Genetics and Genomics of PlantsPlant Cell Biology and Biotechnology) and through the use of natural selection in tomatoes (Population Genetics).

To accomplish this goal state-of-the-art technologies are utilized such as live cell imaging (CAi-Center for Advanced Imaging), in vivo metabolite measurements (Molecular Physiology), metabolome analysis using various chromatography and mass spectrometrical techniques (Plant Biochemistry), phenotyping (BotanyIBG-2: Plant Sciences), next-generation gene sequencing and quantitative gene expression analysis (Biological Data ScienceBotany), and computer-aided analysis and modeling (Quantitative and Theoretical Biology).

Together for climate neutral sustainability - research alliances

This exciting and important research is part of the only German Cluster of Excellence for basic plant research in Germany (CEPLAS), a plant-specific graduate program with our US partners at Michigan State University (NextPlant), as well as various projects of the Bioeconomy Science Center (BioSC).

In order to choose the Plant Sciences and food security during climate change specialization, at least 98 CP must come from this specialization. As a rule, this is achieved through two M modules from the specialization plus the project work (30 CP) plus the pilot project (10 CP) and the Master's thesis (30 CP). The third Master's module can, but does not have to, belong to the specialization. Most of the modules in the specialization are taught in English, meaning that the specialization can be studied in both languages. You have the greatest choice of modules if you are proficient in both languages.

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