Nico Schramma wins Physics@Veldhoven poster prize

Nico Schramma, a second-year PhD student at the UvA-Institute of Physics, has won the scientific poster prize at Physics@Veldhoven 2022.

Elodea densa, the plant that Schramma and his collaborators studied in their research.

For the past year, Schramma has been working in the Soft Matter Group of the Institute of Physics under the supervision of Mazi Jalaal. Schramma’s work is on projects in the intersection of physics and biology. For the NWO Physics@Veldhoven conference on January 25-26, he designed and presented a poster to highlight his current research project on the active glassy motion within plant cells.

Glassy dynamics in plant cells

Plant cells host many chloroplasts – organelles which contain the green pigment chlorophyll, enabling plants to perform photosynthesis. These small half-spherical organelles can actively move around within the plant cell to avoid light that is too strong, which will damage them, or conversely, when the light is less intense, move towards it to increase their light absorption.

The researchers imaged the chloroplasts under the microscope and tracked their motion. By carefully analysing this motion they found that these densely packed organelles have striking similarity to the physics of glass-like substances.

This surprising similarity enabled the researchers to understand chloroplast motion from a completely new point of view, coming from statistical physics. The precise reason why chloroplasts behave similar to molecules in glassy systems remains elusive, but it is likely that there is some biological function to this behaviour which is yet to be uncovered.

Poster prize

At the Physics@Veldhoven conference, posters were judged based on their design, clarity, scientific content, and presentation. This year, the jury found it very difficult to decide on a winner of the prize – which is why the award was ultimately given to two poster presenters: Anne-Marije Zwerver (TU Delft) and Nico Schramma.

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