Sophia Ma

Identifying Photoinhibitory Quenching Recovery Genes in Green Algae


Population growth is set to exceed the capacity of modern agricultural yields, but innovations in agricultural technologies have the potential to meet global food needs. One promising area of basic research is involves improving the biology of photosynthesis so the plants themselves can grow more efficiently. At a fundamental level, it is easy to think that more sunlight equates to more photosynthesis. However, plants often receive far more sunlight than they can use, which can be damaging to the cell. Plants and algae have evolved ingenious mechanisms to dissipate excess light, albeit rather imperfectly, as dissipation competes with photosynthesis. My research project focuses on discovering key factors involved in the photosynthetic recovery of the chloroplast after sustained exposure to excess light in the model alga, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Specifically, I will be using a mutant deficient in its ability to repair oversaturated photosynthetic machinery, in order to identify secondary mutations that recover light tolerance. My research will contribute to our overall understanding of the mechanisms governing tolerance to light and oxidative stress, while identifying gene targets to improve agricultural yield.

Message to Sponsor

I am extremely thankful for this opportunity. This funding makes it possible for me to work on my research full-time, as I have never been able to due to work and school obligations. I am excited for all the exciting discoveries I will make this summer!
  • Major: Microbial Biology
  • Sponsor: Rose Hills Foundation
  • Mentor: Krishna Niyogi