Jesse, PhD candidate in the Plant Ecophysiology group of Ronald Pierik en Rens Voesenek, won the Utrecht University Science Battle that was held in May. In the battle, 4 PhD candidates from different research fields explained their research to a general audience with an enthusiastic, easy-to-understand and interactive 10 minute talk. Besides Jesse there were contestants from the fields of Chemistry (Marthe van der Linden), Physics (Watse Sybesma) and Neuroscience (Feline Lindhout).
Jesse: "My talk was about how to feed a growing world population on a planet that has limited farming area available. One way to improve yields would be to grow plants at higher densities. However, at such high densities, plants will be experience shading by their neighbours. When shade is perceived, plants will invest their resources in enhanced upward growth of the shoot, towards the light. This process is called shade avoidance and comes at the expense of resource investment in fruits and other harvestable organs. Therefore, it is necessary to find out how shade avoidance is regulated at the molecular level so we can make crops that allocate their resources in a manner that is favourable for humans, even when grown at high densities. In this talk I presented some of the research I have done on upward leaf movement in the model system Arabidopsis thaliana (thale cress).
It was fun to participate in the battle, I practiced at home until I couldn't stand hearing myself speak anymore. The prize was a wooden artwork of the Science Battle logo and a glass jar with sheep brains. "