IMPRS Faculty

The faculty of the IMPRS "Primary Metabolism and Plant Growth" includes professors and group leaders from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology and the University of Potsdam.

Below, you can find the names of our faculty and a short description of their research topic. You will get more information about the research done by our faculty members, their groups and departments if you click on their name.

Current IMPRS Faculty Members

You can find the active IMPRS-PMPG faculty members in the table below. Doctoral projects within the IMPRS-PMPG can be pursued in the groups and departments of these scientists, unless indicated differently. In the table, UP stands for University of Potsdam, MPI-MP for Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, IGZ for Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops.

To find out more about our faculty members and their groups, please click on their names. The link will lead you to their websites where you can learn more about their research, find publications etc.

It is not required to contact our faculty members before you submit an application for the IMPRS-PMPG. If you do contact them by email, please inform yourself about their research beforehand, and indicate in your email that you plan to apply for the IMPRS-PMPG.

Please note that some of our faculty members are not available for PhD projects starting in 2021, or are only available for selected topics. This is indicated in the table below.

Name of IMPRS faculty Group name Research focus
Isabel Bäurle
Plant Stress and Epigenetics Plants can “remember” past exposure to stress, such that development or tolerance to recurring stress is modified. Using genetic, molecular and other tools, we study the long-term adaptation of plants to abiotic stress and the roles of epigenetic and chromatin regulation in this process.
Ralph Bock
Organelle Biology, Biotechnology, Molecular Ecophysiology Gene expression in plant cell organelles, interactions between the nucleo-cytosolic compartment and the organelles. The evolution of eukaryotic genomes and interactions between plants in populations and ecosystems.
Alisdair Fernie
Central Metabolism Central (energy) metabolism and its coordination. Integration of primary metabolism with intermediary and secondary metabolism. Genetics of metabolic regulation.
Markus Grebe
Establishment of Plant Cell and Tissue Polarity We investigate how cell and tissue polarity is established in epidermal cells of Arabidopsis thaliana roots. We look at, for example, root hair positioning (planar polarity) and establishment of outer lateral membrane polarity. To understand how one end of the cell becomes different from another one at the molecular level and how this may be coordinated within the tissue context, we combine a variety of genetic, molecular and cell biology methods, including state-of-the-art microscopy.
Claudia Köhler
Epigenetics, Plant Reproduction and Speciation Our lab studies genetic and epigenetic mechanisms governing seed development and plant speciation. Our focus is on the seed endosperm, a major sink for photosynthetically fixed carbon in plants. We study the endosperm’s role in supporting embryo growth and in establishing hybridization barriers, ultimately leading to speciation. Furthermore, we study the biogenesis and function of transposable element-derived small RNAs during reproduction, and the role of transposable elements in generating transcriptional networks.
Please note: Prof Köhler will take up her new position as Director at MPI-MP in February 2021. She is available for PhD projects starting in 2021.
Friedrich Kragler
Intercellular Macromolecular Transport We study the mechanisms and regulation of (1) cell-to-cell transport of proteins and RNA molecules in plants via plasmodesmata and (2) long-distance transport of RNA molecules via the phloem. We use biochemical approaches combined with genomic techniques to understand these transport processes and to functionally characterize candidate molecules.
Roosa Laitinen
Molecular Mechanisms of Plant Adaptation

We use natural variation in Arabidopsis thaliana to understand adaptation in plants. The focus is on the genetic and molecular analysis of hybrids that show altered phenotype in comparison to their parents. Further, we study, how they are influenced by environmental factors.
Please note: Dr Laitinen will take up a Professorship at and move to the University of Helsinki in 2021. She is no longer available for PhD projects within the IMPRS-PMPG.

Michael Lenhard
Control of Plant Organ Size Identifying the molecular and genetic mechanisms that determine the sizes of leaves and flowers; understanding how these mechanisms have changed during evolution to alter plant organ size.
Bernd Mueller-Roeber
Plant Signalling Coordination of plant responses to environmental stress through various signalling mechanisms involving transcriptional regulatory networks. Systems-oriented approaches for the analysis of leaf growth.
Zoran Nikoloski (UP) Computational Biology Development, analysis, and implementation of methods for: (1) data-driven qualitative and quantitative modeling of genome-scale metabolic networks, (2) evolutionary and optimization processes in biological networks, (3) automated transfer of functional knowledge within and across species. Methods include network optimization, design and analysis of algorithms, random processes, computational complexity.
André Scheffel
Algal Biomineralization Deciphering how biomineral-forming organisms synthesize and shape inorganic materials. Identification of the cellular machinery that enables coccolithophores, unicellular marine algae, to synthesize coccoliths.
Please note: If you would like to apply for and join Dr Scheffel’s lab in 2021, please contact him prior to submitting your application for the IMPRS-PMPG.
René Schneider
Cell Biology of Water Transport We are interested in how plants build their water-conducting vasculature - the so-called xylem. We use high-resolution microscopy and novel genetic systems to observe the formation of xylem cell walls in real time, and employ state-of-the-art image analysis, in-vitro reconstitution assays and computer simulations to uncover the cellular and molecular principles that govern the formation of this critical cell type.
Mark Stitt
Metabolic Networks Systems-oriented approach on metabolic pathways involved in primary carbon and nitrogen metabolism. How primary and secondary metabolism are integrated and regulated, and how signals from central metabolism regulate plant growth and development.
Please note: Only projects on photosynthesis and on trehalose-6-phosphate signalling, co-supervised by Dr John Lunn, are available in Prof Stitt's group for 2021.
Vanessa Wahl
Metabolism and Development We focus on how metabolic and nutritional status affect developmental transitions in plants and how developmental transitions are regulated in different plant species. In particular, we are interested in processes at the shoot apical meristem (SAM) that regulate meristem size and the timing of the floral transition. We use Arabidopsis thaliana, its relative Arabis alpina, and Solanum tuberosum (potato) as model species.
Dirk Walther
Bioinformatics Application and development of bioinformatics methods to discern biologically relevant relationships between molecules from complex OMICS data sets with a focus on computational genomics (comparative genomics, gene expression regulation etc.) and structural bioinformatics (sequence-structure-function relationships, post-translational modifications, interaction networks, compound-protein interactions).
Philip Wigge
(UP / IGZ)
Temperature Sensing in Plants We focus on how plants sense and integrate temperature signals into their development. We are interested in understanding the mechanisms of temperature perception (thermosensors), as well as understanding how downstream signalling pathways and transcriptional regulatory networks transmit temperature signals to control plant responses. Our projects involve genetics, transcriptional regulation, epigenetics and bioinformatics. We study the model systems Arabidopsis and Brachypodium and horticulturally relevant plants, such as the Solanaceae.
Lothar Willmitzer
Molecular Physiology Plant systems approach on metabolism in its broadest sense, using reverse genetics and functional genomics to analyse the pleiotropic effects of these alterations.
Please note: Prof Willmitzer is not available for PhD projects starting in 2021.

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