30 April 2018

Molecular plant biologist one of 25 nominees

Vote for UU scientific talent Kasper van Gelderen!

Molecular plant biologist Kasper van Gelderen from Utrecht University is one of 25 nominees for the election of the Dutch/Flemish Scientific Talent 2018 award. The five candidates who are judged best by the expert jury and receive the most votes during this round of the contest, will go on to the finals in Tivoli Vredenburg on 31 May.

So vote now (and no later than 6 May) for Kasper van Gelderen!

Effects of light and shadow

Van Gelderen studies the effects of light and shadow on the molecular level of plant growth. His research produces interesting possibilities for increasing agricultural yields. “Plants cannot move when they start to get crowded by their neighbours, so they have become masters in adapting their growth to their environment”, Van Gelderen explains. “Adapting to the fall of light is the most important of these adaptations, because it is essential for their growth. That means plants are constantly struggling to find the sunniest spot.”


“For me the most fascinating about my work is the different levels it involves: from light reflecting from neighbouring plants, to signals that go through the plant, to molecules inside the plant cells”, Van Gelderen adds. “The more we understand about how plants observe their world, the better we can understand how they react to changes in their environment. But the results of our research also have useful applications. Climate change influences the conditions in which plants grow, and at the same time we have ever more mouths to feed here on earth. The insights from our research can help to select crops that grow well even when they are packed close together.”

Kasper is an extremely enthusiastic, promising talent in the field of plant biology. He only recently earned his PhD, but he has already made several important discoveries. Kasper also has a knack for explaining his work to a wide audience.
prof.dr. Ronald Pierik

Light inhibits root growth

Together with his colleagues from the group led by Prof. Ronald Pierik (Plant Photobiology and Plant Ecophysiology), Van Gelderen recently discovered a mechanism where light that’s reflected from neighboring plant leaves causes a reduction in the growth of the root, as is shown in the image below. They discovered that a small protein that can travel from the shoot to the root that relays this light signal. The researchers think this mechanism allows the plant to invest the energy saved by inhibiting root growth in extra growth for stems and leaves, so that they can absorb more light. This study also showed that crowded plants with smaller root systems are less able to absorb water and nutrients. Read the article and a brief summary.

Effect van gereflecteerd licht op de wortelgroei en de nieuwe scheuten
Far-Red light, which is reflected by neighbouring leaves, increases the shoot, but reduces the root

Science Talent 2018

The Scientific Talent 2018 election is organised by New Scientist, in cooperation with the Rathenau Institute. On 31 May, the five finalists will give a presentation to compete for the title in TivoliVredenburg. Stem cell pioneer Hans Clevers, astronomer Vincent Icke, and aging expert Andrea Maier will also be present to give lectures on the latest developments in their respective fields. Click here for more information and tickets.

Vote now (and no later than 6 May) for Kasper van Gelderen!

Would you like to hear more about Kasper van Gelderen’s research? Vroege Vogels produced an enthusiastic report following a night lecture he gave in Hortus Amsterdam (in Dutch).