Skip navigation links

March 30, 2016

MSU professor lands prestigious award for photosynthesis research

David Kramer, MSU Hannah Distinguished Professor in photosynthesis and bioenergetics, is the recipient of the American Society of Plant Biologists 2016 Charles F. Kettering Award. This award was established in 1962 by an endowment from the Kettering Foundation to recognize excellence in the field of photosynthesis.

Kramer’s research focuses on understanding how the machinery of photosynthesis is integrated into living organisms, which is critical for improvements in its efficiency and robustness needed to meet our future food and energy needs. Kramer’s lab made key contributions to this understanding for some time, but when he joined the DOE-supported Plant Research Laboratory at MSU, he had a chance to approach the problem in a new way. He brought together a unique team of scientists, engineers, computer programmers, computational biologists and even social scientists and economists to develop a series of novel scientific platforms that allow scientists to peer into living plants and algae and see photosynthesis at work under the harsh conditions where they grow.

These tools are being used not only in his own research, but also in in hundreds of labs around the world. Recently, his team has been pushing to make these tools more widely available, resulting in the establishment of both a spin-off company, Phenometrics, and the project that aims to make sophisticated scientific tools accessible to broader communities to solve critical agricultural questions, particularly in the developing world.

Kramer, who holds appointments in the MSU-DOE PRL, which is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy; the MSU Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the College of Natural Science; and is an MSU AgBioResearch faculty member, said that he was speechless when he got the call about the award.

“The previous winners are all icons of photosynthesis research, and it’s amazing to me to be considered in the same company,” Kramer said. “This award also has a special meaning to me, because I got my start in photosynthesis research when I was an undergraduate student at the Charles F. Kettering Research Laboratory. And then and now, my lab’s success has been due to the amazing support from institutions, colleagues, students and family.”

Christoph Benning, MSU-DOE PRL director, was quick to add his congratulations on behalf of the entire lab.

“David has made outstanding contributions to our basic understanding of plant photosynthesis and to recognizing limitations in the efficiency of light utilization by plants,” he said. “Through his resourceful and visionary approaches, he has been instrumental in setting the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory on a successful path toward becoming one of the premier institutes for cutting-edge photosynthesis research.”

Kramer is heading a major commitment by MSU to photosynthesis research, said Thomas Sharkey, biochemistry and molecular biology department chair.

“He is recognized worldwide as the leader in studying photosynthesis using optical signals,” he said. “This richly deserved award is further evidence of the importance of David’s work.”

Kramer will be officially presented with his award during a ceremony on July 9 at ASPB’s Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas.

Click here for a complete list of 2016 ASPB award winners.

By: Val Osowski