Brandizzi Lab celebrates 10 years at MSU

  • May 31, 2016
  • Brandizzi lab
  • By Igor Houwat
Brandizzi lab
Brandizzi, to the far left, with lab members.
By Harley J. Seeley Photography

The Brandizzi Lab is celebrating its ten-year anniversary at MSU this May under the leadership of Dr. Federica Brandizzi, MSU Foundation Professor at the PRL.

Brandizzi’s research seeks to understand how plants produce materials of many kinds and resist stress on Earth and in space environments. She has focused on critical plant cellular organs, called organelles, that build the cell, allow it to grow, and enable it to respond to external signals.

In specific, and with the aid of numerous and enthusiastic mentees in her lab, she has looked at the endoplasmic reticulum, a massive manufacturing facility that produces most of plant   proteins, and the Golgi apparatus, the post office that receives, finishes, and ships those proteins to the right destinations within the cell. In support of studying such plant organelles in live cells, Brandizzi has pioneered the implementation of an advanced imaging technique, confocal microscopy, which enhances the quality and quantity of information that can be gathered in cells through a microscope.

Endoplasmic reticulum under confocal microscope
Gorgeous endoplasmic reticulum as seen with a confocal microscope

It is important to understand how the endoplasmic reticulum and the Golgi work, since they allow us to produce the foods that we eat, in addition to other useful things including, clothes, oils, construction materials, and precursors for biofuels.  “Plants are major players in the biotechnology boom and hold great promise for production of a wide range of compounds,” says Brandizzi. “If we are to make best use of plants as living factories, we must understand the mechanics of the production process.”

In addition to her role at the PRL, Brandizzi is lead for the Plants Area at the DOE Energy Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) at MSU. Throughout her career, Brandizzi has published around 120 peer-reviewed manuscripts. She has mentored dozens upon dozens of undergraduates, graduate students, post-docs, high schoolers, and teachers from all around the world. Her work has been funded by the Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, NASA, and Michigan State University, among others. Her numerous awards and honors include prestigious fellowships such as a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship, and lectureships, such the Bob B. Buchanan Endowed Lectureship and the Clayton Person Lectureship.

And she is showing no signs of slowing down, with the lab just announcing a new multi-institutional NSF grant earlier this month: “The PRL is THE place to be to do great research on photosynthetic organisms.”

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