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First-Person Science: Christoph Benning on Plant Biochemistry

In the First-Person Science series, scientists describe how they made significant discoveries over years of research. Christoph Benning is the director of the Michigan State University-Department of Energy Plant Research Laboratory.

“We have to show Mr. Benning how to purify chloroplasts. I think the purification wasn’t quite right,” mocked a fellow senior researcher as I stood on the podium. I had just finished a presentation at the International Symposium on Plant Lipids, the major conference in my research area. I had described my laboratory’s finding that a certain type of lipid – a biological molecule that includes fatty acids and sugar – had built up in plant roots. No one had ever found this lipid in roots before. So he was skeptical.

He was also wrong. We published the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Later on, other scientists confirmed our findings.

Read the full story on the DOE Office of Science website.