Professor Min Chen
A08 - Heydon-Laurence Building
The University of Sydney
|Telephone||+61 2 9036 5006|
|Fax||+61 2 9351 4119|
- Ph. D, (2003, Sydney), M.Sc & B Sc. (NENU, China)
- Postdoctoral Fellow, ANU, 2003
- Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Fellow, USyd, 2004 - 2006
- Research Fellow, USyd, 2007
- ARC QEII Fellow, USyd, 2008 - 2012
- Associate Professor, USyd, 2011 - 2014
- ARC Future Fellow, USyd, 2013 - 2016
- Professor, USyd, 2015 - present
My research interests are primarily concerned with elucidating the molecular and biochemical mechanisms of the energy-storing reactions and photo-regulatory processes in photosynthetic organisms, especially the function of red-shifted chlorophylls in oxygenic photosynthetic organisms (cyanobacteria and algae). We exploit the relative simplicity of oxygenic photosynthetic bacteria (cyanobacteria) or unicellular algae to study the light-harvesting systems, natural variation of the light-harvesting strategy, energy transfer and the function/structure of the pigment-protein complexes involved in these processes. We use a variety of approaches - molecular genetics, protein engineering, confocal fluorescence microscopy, liquid chromatography as well as structural and spectroscopic methods.
As a part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis, we are now increasingly concentrating on improving light harvesting efficiency by extending the photosynthetic active solar spectral region, enhancing light penetration into crop canopies and reducing the wastage of excess sunlight.
Broad research areas: Plant molecular biology, biochemistry of pigments, photosynthesis
Subject: Photosynthesis and function of pigment-protein complexes
1. Chlorophyll f-photosynthesis
The photosynthetic reactions take place within the membrane-bound pigment-protein complexes, light harvesting systems and reaction centre systems. Chlorophylls are the essential pigments for photosynthesis. The function of chlorophyll fin photosynthetic reactions is uncertain. The approaches for this proposed project will include – methods for isolation of photosynthetic membranes and pigment-protein complexes by centrifugation, spectroscopic methods for probing the energy transfer pathways and liquid chromatographic methods for determining pigment compositions.
2. Biosynthesis of chlorophyll f
The studies on photophysiological and biochemical properties of red-shifted chlorophylls will advance our understanding of their ecological and evolutionary significance. The recently discovered chlorophyll f has the most red-shifted absorption maximum that is involved in oxygenic photosynthesis. Its biosynthetic pathway is unknown. The approaches for this proposed project will include – cyanobacterial culture technology, high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and mass spectrometry.
3. Light-harvesting efficiency and their natural variation
The use of sunlight by plants for the production of biomass is constrained by a number of key biophysical and biochemical limitations and only 4-7% of the energy in sunlight falling onto a crop is captured into organic matter. Two considerations are that only half of the solar spectrum can be absorbed by chlorophylls and that bright light limits the capacity of photosynthetic reactions. This project focuses on the light-harvesting strategy in red-shifted chlorophyll containing photosynthetic organisms. The approaches for this proposal will include – setting-up cyanobacterial cultures under different environments, pigmentation analysis (spectrophotometer and HPLC), pigment-protein complexes isolation technology and physical and biochemical characterisation.
Awards and honours
- Peter Goldcare Award of the Australian Society of Plant Sciences 2013
- The Robin Hill Award of International Society of Photosynthesis Research 2013
- ARC Future Fellowship 2013-2016
- Finalist in Scientific Research by Australian Museum Eureka Prize 2012
- Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of Year 2011
- ARC QE II Fellowship 2008-2012
- ARC APD Fellowship 2004-2006
In the media
Sydney Morning Herald“Out of the lab, into the spotlight” Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011 in Environment, Science Section.http://www.smh.com.au/environment/out-of-the-lab-into-the-spotlight-20111012-1lkvo.html
Min Chen: Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year (Oct. 12 2011) http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/prime-ministers-prize/pmlifescience11
Feature review of discovery of Chl f by Prof Bernhard Kruetler “A New Factor in Life’s Quest for Energy”in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 50 (11): 2439-2441, Mar. 7 2011.
A cover story “A New Chlorophyll,Chemical Year in Review 2010”in Chemical and Engineering News published by the American Chemical Society. (Dec. 20 2010) http://pubs.acs.org/cen/coverstory/88/8851cover.html
2010 Science News of Year Molecules by Gimme F in Science News (Jan. 1 2011)http://www.sciencenews.org/view/feature/id/67707/title/2010_Science_News_of_the_Year_Molecules
A feature article “Power plants”by Alan Burdick in On Earth Magazine (Nov. 23 2010) http://www.onearth.org/article/power-plants
“A New Form of Chlorophyll?”in Scientific American (Aug. 19 2010) (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=new-form-chlorophyll,)
“Infrared chlorophyll could boost solar cells” in New Scientist (Aug. 28 2010 v2775 p22)(http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20727755.700-infrared-chlorophyll-could-boost-solar-cells.html
PhD and master's project opportunities
- Evolutionary relationships of aerobic and anaerobic metabolic reactions
- The substitution and formation of red-shifted chlorophylls
- Spectral extension in photosynthesis: molecular mechanism of photosynthesis driven by red-shifted chlorophylls
- Molecular mechanism of photo-regulation in cyanobacteria
- Developing a pathway to incorporate red-shifted chlorophylls into light-harvesting complexes to extend the solar spectrum in photosynthesis
- Light-harvesting complexes: adaptation and efficiency
- Cyanobaterial photoregulatory mechanisms, pigmentation varieties and their evolutionary significance
- ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis; Badger M, Von Caemmerer S, Chen M, Evans J, Farquhar G, Furbank R, Ghannoum O, Hammer G, Jordan D, Price D, Quick P, Whitney S; Australian Research Council (ARC)/ARC Centres of Excellence.
- Biosynthetic and evolutionary pathway of red-shifted chlorophylls; Chen M; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Future Fellowships (FT).
- An automated 3D electron microscopy imaging system comprising a 3View2 and field-emission scanning electron microscope; Liu Z, Chen M, Copeland L, Crawford J, Langrish T, Li Q, Mai Y, Overall R, Weiss A, Ye L; DVC Research/Equipment Grant.
- The role of chlorophyll f in photosynthesis; Chen M, Willows R, Blankenship R; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- Molecular mechanisms of spectral extension in photosynthesis: the substitution and formation of the novel pigment chlorophyll d; Chen M, Blankenship R, Willows R, Larkum A, Blankenship R; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- Genomic and Biochemical Basis of Pigmentation in Novel Isolates of Marine Cyanobacteria; Hess W, Chen M; Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD)/Travelling Fellowship.
- The evolutionary transition fron anaerobic to aerobic metabolism; Chen M; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- The evolutionary transition from anaerobic to aerobic metabolism; University of Sydney/Bridging Fellowship.
- Novel Chlorophylls and New Directions in Photosynthesis; Blankenship R, Chen M, Larkum A, Blankenship R; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).
- Relationship of antenna complexes - reaction centres in chlorophyll d containing oxy-photosynthetic cyanobacterium,Acaryochloris marina; Chen M; Journal of Cell Science (JCS)/Research Grant.
- Characteristics of chlorophyll d-binding protein complexes: in assembly of light-harvesting complexes; Chen M; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).