Chemistry and Biochemistry

Specialized training in the EU Marie Curie Chair

Posted: Jul 14, 2011

An internationally recognized expert in thermodynamics, Dr Lee D Hansen, Professor Emeritus at Brigham Young University, USA, taught his area of expertise, calorespirometry, to the research group affiliated with the EU Marie Curie Chair. Lee Hansen visited the Chair for 12 days, beginning on 24 June 2011.

The visit was funded by TA Instruments, Utah, USA, by the Portuguese company Elnor SA, FCT and the holder of the chair, Birgit Arnholdt-Schmitt. The purpose of the training was the acquisition of an MC-DSC calorimeter, the only such calorimeter in Portugal, and the start of an innovative project funded by the FCT. The project aims to develop and application in plant genomics, with a main objective to establish a special competence in the Alentejo region. The project will be conducted by Dr. Amaia Nogales under the overall coordination of Birgit Arnholdt-Schmitt, a researcher in the EU. Two other researchers, Luz Muñoz and Doroteia Campos are also part of the project team. However, the whole group affiliated with the Chair intends to apply the calorespirometric technology to various systems and scientific issues.

Research by the EU Marie Curie Chair is related to the study of the “alternative oxidase (AOX)” gene family that is active in respiratory metabolism of plants. The growth of a tissue and the final biomass production may be influenced by regulation of AOX genes. The idea of the project is to study the effect of AOX gene polymorphisms on metabolism and growth potential with calorespirometric measurements. The project was approved by a panel of experts in plant genomics and biotechnology, and aims to improve an in vitro culture system that can be used as a test system to investigate the productivity of carrots.

Dr. Lee Hansen is involved in the development of equipment and methods for calorespirometry, is a consultant to TA Instruments, and is a business owner of AD Tech, Enhancing Renewable Energy Production, which produces equipment for cleaning biogas. As a researcher in thermodynamics of biological systems, Lee Hansen influenced the ideas of Birgit Arnholdt-Schmitt as early as 2002 before they met in person. Because of this scientific stimulation, the holder of the Chair invited the American scientist to participate in the 2008 “First International Symposium on AOX” in Evora, Portugal, to discuss and demonstrate calorespirometry and to participate in roundtable discussions. Direct contact was established during the symposium and a joint publication was subsequently written. The recent training now allows development of future plans for research collaboration.

By Birgit Arnholdt-Schmitt, EU Marie Curie Chair

Read the original article in Portuguese