Welcome to the Lancaster Photosynthesis website

The photosynthesis team at Lancaster is researching how to improve carbon assimilation to increase crop yields, while minimising the use of resources. It started with the relocation of Martin Parry and Elizabete Carmo-Silva from Rothamsted Research in September 2015 (see the story here). In 2016 Steve Long, FRS, joined LEC on a joint appointment with his position at the University of Illinois (story here).

Our research is funded by the BBSRC, the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP), and a sub-contract to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation award to the University of Illinois (RIPE). We focus on understanding natural variation across diverse plant genotypes in photosynthetic efficiency and regulation in response to the environment. We use this knowledge to improve carbon assimilation in crops through interaction with breeders and agronomists. We use biotechnological tools to improve specific photosynthetic processes and test the impact on overall plant performance.

Our team is part of a wider group, the Plant and Crop Science research group, consisting of ten academic staff and involving interactions with staff from across the other research groups. Research at LEC focuses on strategic applications and provides a link to policy and business. In addition, through its Enterprise and Business Partnerships (EBP), LEC undertakes a wide range of projects in partnership with business and industry.

New publication on RbcS in Arabidopsis now online

Well done to Doug Orr and Elizabete Carmo-Silva who have recently contributed to an article characterizing Rubisco small subunit mutants published in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

This work was led by our friends in the McCormick lab at the University of Edinburgh with contributions from a number of collaborators. It was led by PK who has recently completed his PhD with Alistair on this work.

Congrats and well done to all.

New publication comparing methods for measuring Rubisco activity

Well done and great job by Cris Sales, Anabela Bernardes da Silva (Lisbon) and Elizabete Carmo-Silva who have recently published an article in the Journal of Experimental Botany and a related protocols piece.

This has been a big effort led by Cris to investigate the advantages and disadvantages of various methods of determining Rubisco activity and activation state, including ease of use, costs, and equipment requirements.

2 postdoc positions available! – These have now been filled.

The Lancaster Photosynthesis Team is excited to be recruiting two new Postdoctoral positions to contribute to the large multinational project RIPE: Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency for Sustainable Increases in Crop Yield. We are seeking two enthusiastic postdocs (Research Associates) to work in Plant Biochemistry and Plant Bioinformatics. These roles will contribute to the goal of improving Rubisco and its regulation in the legumes cowpea and soybean, in both fluctuating and steady-state conditions.

RIPE is funded by a sub-contract from the University of Illinois through the generous support of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR). The goal of this project is improve the productivity and sustainability of crops like cowpea, a vitally important crop for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. As part of this project, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with a large team at Lancaster and within the broader project, to do world-leading research towards improving photosynthesis and improving the livelihoods of African farmers.

We are seeking people to work in the following areas (see links for full job description):
Plant Biochemistry, with a focus on studying Rubisco, Rubisco activase and the interactions between these critical enzymes. This will involve both in vitro studies with recombinant proteins, and analysis of diverse germplasm of cowpea and soybean.

Plant Bioinformatics, with a focus on understanding the genetic basis of variation in plant response to fluctuating light, with a focus on the regulation of Rubisco. This will include leading GWAS analyses, in addition to designing and executing experiments that take advantage of other NGS techniques (e.g. RNAseq).

All applications must be submitted through the Lancaster University Jobs portal located here.

For both positions, applications close on Saturday, September 7th.

Informal enquiries can be directed to the PIs of the project: Dr Elizabete Carmo-Silva e.carmosilva@lancaster.ac.uk , or Prof Martin Parry m.parry@lancaster.ac.uk.

The direct links are: Plant Biochemist: https://hr-jobs.lancs.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=A2772

Plant Bioinformatician: https://hr-jobs.lancs.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=A2771


Plastid Preview 2018: an organisers perspective.

Organising a conference: Plastid Preview 2018

By Rhiannon Page, Plastid Preview organising team member.

Plastid Preview is a small, friendly meeting for Early Career Researchers (ECRs) working in the area of chloroplast biology and I had been fortunate enough to attend twice, both in Edinburgh in 2016 and in Cambridge in 2017. So when I was given the opportunity to help organise the conference at Lancaster in 2018, I was super excited. However I was about to learn how much work goes into organising even a small event such as this! Luckily, other researchers in the group, Elizabete Carmo-Silva, Doug Orr and Mike Page, were also part of the organising team. The four of us sat down together almost a year before the meeting and started to make plans.

We set a date, wary to avoid a clash with other events in our field, and made a list of potential sponsors and supporters. Plastid Preview is traditionally free to attend for delegates so it was vital to find enough funding to cover all the costs. There was a bit of a rush to submit funding applications on time but thanks to the generosity of Phyconet, The Company of Biologists, Society for Experimental Biology, New Phytologist, Li-Cor, N8 AgriFood and Gatsby, the meeting could go ahead. It was an easy decision to use the Lancaster Conference Centre at Lancaster University as the venue and a quick meeting with their event organiser sorted the accommodation and conference dinner too. We designed a website to promote the conference and allow online registration and started inviting along participants.

As we eagerly watched the number of attendees increase, we started assembling a programme, abstract booklet and printing name badges. We wanted to make this year’s conference particularly useful to ECRs by trying to provide many opportunities for them to contribute actively to the meeting. We invited ECRs to chair the 6 seminar sessions. There were 20 talks and 18 posters supplemented with flash talks. Mary Williams (ASPB) and Mike Whitfield (New Phytologist) were asked to give talks on how ECRs can best promote themselves and their science, and included an excellent and fun interactive activity. We also arranged prizes for the Best Poster and Best Talk, and persuaded the PIs attending the conference to judge the competition.

When the day of the meeting finally arrived, we were a little tense but all our hard work paid off as the conference went smoothly and we could take part and enjoy proceedings along with all the delegates. I particularly enjoyed running the registration desk and welcoming everyone to Lancaster. This was a great opportunity to get to know all my fellow researchers and start building those all-important relationships. The conference dinner went well, providing a choice of meals and catering for all dietary requirements. As well as relaxing and networking, we managed to secure a willing volunteer to host next year’s Plastid Preview! We promoted the meeting on Twitter through the hashtag #plastidpreview2018, tweeting ourselves, with help from Ali Birkett, our department’s official tweeter, and encouraging participants to use the hashtag during the meeting. We reached over 100,000 impressions through 210 posts by 45 different users. People as far away as Australia, India, Chile and Brazil interacted with these tweets. Additionally, we requested that delegates provide feedback on the meeting and 40 people responded through a quick online survey. Please see the graphs below for a summary:

Following the conference there was still a surprising amount of work left to sort out! Reports needed writing for funders and supporters, travel claims arranged and finances put in order. Organising Plastid Preview 2018 was a lot of work but working with a team of great people made it a fun and exciting experience. I am immensely proud of what we all achieved and that Lancaster could contribute as host for this great series of meetings. We learnt during the meeting that Plastid Preview might have begun as long as 35 years ago! We hope it continues to be a useful meeting for ECRs and look forward to 2019’s edition in York later this year!



We are recruiting!

We are recruiting a postdoctoral plant molecular physiologist. This would be perfect for someone who has recently finished a PhD and wants to get some further experience by contributing to our synthetic biology project Super-Rice!

While it is a short term post (8 months because the project ends 30/06/2019), it comes with lots of perks! The post holder will visit XinGuang Zhu’s lab in Shanghai for up to 6 weeks and be able to attend the Gordon Research Conference on Chloroplast Biotechnology in Ventura in January! Deadline for applications is 28/10/2018! More details at: https://hr-jobs.lancs.ac.uk/Vacancy.aspx?ref=A2446

Speeding Light Induction of Photosynthesis to Increase Wheat Yields

One of our new projects as part of IWYP aims to increase wheat genetic yield potential by speeding up the response of photosynthesis in shade-sun transitions. We are excited about it and made a video to let the world know about it!  https://twitter.com/LancasterUni/status/1007245235745902592

A number of us at the photosynthesis group attended the IWYP Annual Meeting in Norwich, UK, June 2018, benefiting from fruitful discussions with collaborators from all over the world. https://twitter.com/IWYP_wheat/status/1007734155751378949

The importance of science communication was part of lively discussions at LUSO2018 on Saturday 16 June 2018. https://twitter.com/LancasterUni/status/1008650989019295744

Photosynthesis Retreat 2018

This year’s retreat at Grasmere felt like a real treat!! Not only was the weather perfect to enjoy the Lake District at its best, we had a full day of productive scientific discussions focused on each project, and plenty of time to discuss science and the challenges and opportunities we face as scientists!

A great opportunity to be together as a team and reflect on what’s best about us, and where can we improve!

Looking forward to next year’s retreat already!


Inspiring high-school students about Plant Sciences!

On Saturday 12 May, three Portuguese-speaking members of our team took part in the Native Explorers science education and outreach activity, co-organized by Lancaster University and the Native Scientist project.

Cristina, Catarina and Elizabete were so fortunate to take this opportunity to talk to Portuguese teenagers living in the Manchester area about photosynthesis research going on at LEC. Seeing the excitement of young people when realising how important plants are was priceless!

We are recruiting!

Recruitment for 2 postdoctoral positions in the group has opened!

These positions are an exciting opportunity to join our growing team and work on the multinational RIPE project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR), and the UK Department of International Development (DFID) .

We’re looking for a Biochemist and a Bioinformatician, and further details can be found at these links:

Plant Biochemist