Actualia (engl.) · Conference Report

Plant Science Student Conference (PSSC) 2023

Part of the more than 100 participants that joined this year’s PSSC in Gatersleben, Germany. Photo: IPK Gatersleben
During the students’ presentations the audience followed the talks focussed. Photo: IPK Gatersleben
Research results were discussed in the breaks between the sessions. Photo: IPK Gatersleben

The Plant Science Student Conference took place at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Gatersleben on 3rd and 4th of July 2023. Since 2019 this years’ conference was first time held again in person. Organisation and outline of the 18th PSSC was done by IPK’s doctoral candidates with the focus to improve networking with doctoral candidates from Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) Halle and Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences (CEPLAS) as well as with students from other institutes. Overall, 100 participants - nearly all of them PhD-candidates - registered and attended. Together with invited speakers as Wilma van Esse (Wageningen), Tobias Züst (Zurich), Cathy Westhues (Göttingen) and Elliot Heffner (Corteva R&D) everyone enjoyed a warm and positive atmosphere on site.
The concept of the conference was to combine impulses from leading scientists with insights in students’ research and workshops to improve soft and hard skills. The presence of representatives of our sponsoring partners at site offered also the chance to discuss recent research topics with representatives from industry. Stephanie Frohn reports the scientific topics in more detail.

First day

At the first day Andreas Graner, director of IPK Gatersleben, opened the conference with a short impulse talk. Afterwards, Wilma van Esse reported about research on transcription factors in barley influencing plant architecture and therefore yield. Following, two parallel sessions of students’ talks on abiotic stress and metabolomics and plant biochemistry took place. The quality of the talks was remarkable and was positively recognized as well as the lively and inspiring scientific discussions. Guided tours to resources of IPK and the lunch break refreshed everyone to be able to start into another block of student talk sessions this time on chromosome biology and reproduction and topics on root biology. The keynote by Elliot Heffner on breeding for performance and stability in a changing climate opened the view towards applied science. Afterwards, the workshops on how to analyse plant alkaloids given by John Charles D’Auria and Sara Leite Dias as a laboratory skill course and data visualization given by Helena Klara Jambor completed an intense day. In the evening all participants enjoyed a BBQ at IPK and the relaxing atmosphere.

Second day

The second day started with a keynote given by Tobias Züst about diversity and novelty of chemical plant defence and how this enables escape from specialised insect herbivores. This topic was of great interest for the audience and the discussion lasted into the coffee break. The two following student talk sessions on plant microbial interactions and genomic resources and modelling showed again the excellent quality of the projects and the students working on them. The last keynote in the afternoon given by Cathy Westhues on how machine learning and deep learning approaches help to address current and future challenges faced by plant breeders gave an overview on the different methods which can be used to explore big data sets.

Best talk and poster price

The best talk award was received by Jones Kappen (IPB Halle) with the title “Chasing molecules - a structure elucidation journey” that he presented in an entertaining but also informing way. The prize for the best poster received Henri Laugel (Göttingen) with the title “Abo-Direkt: Direct to resistance, quality and yield with field bean lines”, which was beautifully designed as a comic.


July 2023

Stephanie Frohn, Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Gatersleben