Combining Algal and Plant Photosynthesis

Meet the Algae – UK-Japan Young Scientist Workshop 2012

Between 23rd and 25th July 2012, the Cambridge Plant Sciences Department hosted one group of 6 students from the UK-Japan Young Scientist summer school programme. The group of 4 Japanese and 2 British students spent the first day in the Plant Metabolism lab of Prof. Alison Smith, learning about research into algae as a source of biofuels, and carrying out practical experiments including chromatography, to identify major algal groups based on the composition of photosynthetic pigments.

The second day was spent in Prof. Howard Griffiths’ Physiological Ecology lab. The students were taught about the role of RuBisCO, and the need of many algae for a CO2-concentrating mechanism (CCM). The experimental component of the day involved PAM fluorometry on the model green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and a series of Chlamydomonas RuBisCO mutants with impaired CCM and photosynthetic capacity. The students spent much of the afternoon grappling with the complexities of fluorescence analysis – a task which left everyone involved with a considerable brain-ache, but which prompted detailed and interesting discussion, furthering everybody’s understanding.

A number of the algae (including green algae, filamentous algae and diatoms) found in water samples collected by the students.

The students returned to the Physiological Ecology lab for the third day, on which they went out and about in Cambridge collecting samples from tree barks, walls, gutters, and the river Cam, before returning to the Department’s Teaching Lab to carry out light microscopy on the samples to truly “Meet the Algae”. A veritable algal bloom in the Emmanuel College pond provided a rainbow array of algal species for the students to see, draw and enquire about.

A thoroughly enjoyable and mutually educational time was had by all at what can be concluded to be a successful outreach event.



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