Research Supervisor Connect

Developing a pathway to incorporate red-shifted chlorophylls into light-harvesting complexes to extend the solar spectrum in photosynthesis


Improving light energy capture to increase biomass and crop production


Professor Min Chen.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



Photosynthesis – the most important reaction on the Earth – is the agent that stores the energy of sunlight into carbohydrates for later use in the biosphere. To increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, Nature has evolved varieties of chlorophyll that encompass most of the range of visible light, enabling the maximal use of sunlight. The efficient electron transfer from antenna to reaction centres will affect the process of photosynthesis, so developing pathways to incorporate red-shifted chlorophylls (chlorophyll d or chlorophyll f) into light harvesting complexes to extend the solar spectrum available for photosynthesis is desirable. An approach to manipulate the size of antenna to redistribute light absorption with leaves and crop canopy would be tested to understand how they vary their capability to absorb different parts of the solar spectrum and energy transfer pathway, and further improve light capture for increasing biomass and crop production.  

The project requires basic knowledge of plant science and the processes of photosynthesis. The approaches for this project include biochemical analysis of chlorophylls and their intermediates and characterisation of pigment-protein reconstitution in vitro and in vivo.

Additional information

• Current PhD/Hons topics being undertaken at the location or with the supervisors

Three PhD Projects are being undertaken in A/Prof Chen’s laboratory.
1. Light-harvesting systems in Chromera velia
2. Function of antenna systems in a newly isolated cyanobacterium containing chlorophyll f
3. Global protein analysis of cyanobacterium Acaryochloris marina under various oxygen-stressed conditions.

• Is the opportunity also available for Honours students?

 Yes, one-year potential projects are available for honours students. Details please contact A/Prof Min Chen (

• Techniques, methodologies, research approaches, technologies, etc., employed by the project - e.g., electron microscopy, textual analysis, etc.

Pigment and pigment-bound protein analyses are performed by using a UV/Vis spectrophotometer, fluorescence spectrophotometer and other molecular spectral analysis methods.

General protein isolation and characteristic methods, such as electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE, IEF, Western Blotting, Native electrophoresis, 2-D gel, peptide mass fingerprinting and other proteomic analysis, protein structure analysis (including electron microscope image analysis and structural modelling).

Chromatographic analysis such as HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography), FPLC (Fast protein liquid chromatography), gel filtration and ion-exchanging columns for proteins and protein-complexes purification.

DNA, RNA isolation, PCR (DNA as templates) and RT-PCR (RNA as templates), Gene transformation and functional studies in vitro.

• Scholarships/funding available
ARC Centre of Excellent for Translational Photosynthesis (2014-2020)
Biosynthesis of chlorophylls (ARC Future Fellow, 2013-2016)
ARC Discovery Project (2012-2014)

HDR Inherent Requirements
In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1863

Other opportunities with Professor Min Chen