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‘Innovators’ focuses on unlocking the power of green energy

SEATTLE – As we teeter at the brink of a worldwide energy crisis, scientists at WSU are leading the quest to harness the tremendous energy potential of green plants and algae. Using new tools for exploring the intricacies of photosynthesis, researchers are finding new avenues for tapping the power of plants without compromising our food supply or damaging the environment.

David Kramer, a professor with the Institute of Biological Chemistry at the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, is at the forefront of this new revolution in plant science.

In the October presentation of WSU’s ongoing “Innovators” lecture series, Kramer will discuss his research into increasing plant productivity and redirecting photosynthetic energy toward new and efficient biochemical pathways in effort to harness bioenergy. His presentation, entitled “The Key to Green Energy: Unlocking the Power of Plants and Algae,” will be given at noon Oct. 20. in the Spanish Ballroom of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, 411 University Street. Luncheon registration is currently available online at or by calling 877-978-3868. Admission is $45.

A primary goal of Kramer’s investigation of energy transduction is to understand how biochemical/biophysical reactions of photosynthesis work, individually and together, to define the “energy strategy” of plants and algae.
To explore the question, his laboratory has developed an innovative and extensive “toolbox” of non-invasive instruments, spectroscopic techniques, and basic knowledge that enable observation of photosynthesis in living plants in real time. These tools are becoming widely used by researchers worldwide. His research is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Energy, and various state, corporate, and nonprofit partners.

Kramer and his colleagues are exploring issues such as whether it’s possible see inside living plants and algae and easily assess their potential as food or fuel; whether plants and algae be bred or engineered to be more productive while reducing CO2 emissions; and whether it’s possible to give farmers the means to quickly determine the health of their crops and apply precise remedies to improve their yields.

Kramer joined the WSU faculty in 1995. He is past chair of the Graduate Program in Molecular Plant Sciences and director of the Global Plant Sciences Initiative at WSU. He serves on the editorial board of Plant Cell and Environment and as coordinating editor of Photosynthesis Research. He earned his master’s degree in cell biology at the University of Dayton and his doctoral degree in biophysics at the University of Illinois, and secured fellowships with the McKnight Foundation and with NSF/NATO.

The WSU Innovators lecture series highlights the university’s research achievements and promotes informed discussion about matters of vital importance in the twenty-first century. Through lectures and panel discussions presented throughout the year by faculty experts and industry leaders, the series explores a variety of topics and inspires new visions for our vibrant future.

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