Meet our people in a series of conversations about their careers, passions and stories.

Photo credit: James Walsh, ANU


Susanne von Caemmerer: The mathematical elegance of plants

Susanne is a worldwide recognised expert for using mathematics to represent the process by which plants convert sunlight, gases and water into sugar and oxygen: photosynthesis.

In this conversation, Susanne talks about her career and her love for mathematics and music

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Photo credit: University of Sydney



Min Chen: Catching photons in a rain of light to feed the world

Curiosity has been Professor Min Chen’s companion since she was a little girl and her  curiosity is quite contagious as soon as she begins to explain what her research is all about. “To understand what we do here, you have to imagine that light is like rain coming down from the sky, and photons are like rain drops that plants need to grab. What I do, is trying to understand how plant’s pigments or antennas gather this rain.”

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Credit: Charles Tambiah/CoETP



Fred (Wah Soon) Chow: From famine to electron’s tracker

From an early age, Professor Chow wondered about how plant science could be used to solve famine, learning from the horror that affected his country of birth and his family in such a devastating way.

“I think it was probably in the back of my mind as a teenager, even before coming to Australia, that I wanted to study photosynthesis one day,” he remembers.

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Credit: Charles Tambiah, CoETP





Balasaheb Sowane: Sweet C4 Photosynthesis

A C4 plant sounds like a crossword question for the majority of people, but Dr Balasaheb Sonawane has been around these plants all his life. Currently, he is investigating what makes C4 plants such a promising solution to secure enough food for humanity in the near future.

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Credit: QAFFI, UQ




Barbara George Jaeggli: From poppies to sorghum and beyond

When Dr Barbara George- Jaeggli travelled to Australia from Switzerland, she didn’t expect to work in science again. She bought a small farm with her husband in Warwick, Queensland, but to her surprise, science was already waiting for her there.

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Credit: Stuart Hay, ANU




Ben Long: Grand designs inside a plant cell

Talking to Ben Long is like suddenly landing on an episode of Star Trek: he speaks about bombarding chloroplasts with foreign DNA, using miniature shot guns to penetrate plant cells and about designing icosahedral compartments filled with carbon dioxide.

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Credit: Viridiana Silva-Perez, CSIRO



Viridiana Silva-Perez: Wheat, water and scientific wondering

Standing in the same valley where the Green revolution was born, Viridiana smiles to the camera, while taking notes about the field of wheat that surrounds her. Viridiana Silva-Perez has spent long hours in wheat fields like this both in Mexico and Australia measuring how wheat plants capture and reflect sunlight.

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Dr Maria Ermakova with Setaria plants. Credit: Natalia Bateman, CoETP



Maria Ermakova: Following the electrifying flow of photosynthesis

Maria Ermakova’s first attraction to science was not towards plants – her current focus – but towards bacteria. “My two grandmothers worked in medicine and as a child I was told many stories about that invisible and fascinating world, which you can only perceive through the huge effects it can have on us.”

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