Eva-Mari Aro profile picture
Eva-Mari
Aro
Research Director, Molecular Plant Biology
Academician, professor

Contact

+358 29 450 4200
+358 50 439 4639
Tykistökatu 6
20520
Turku

Areas of expertise

Photosynthesis
Plant molecular biology
Synthetic Biology

Biography

Eva-Mari Aro is a professor of Plant Molecular Biology in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Turku. She received the honorary title of Academician of Science in 2017 from the president of Finland and has served for sixteen years as an Academy Professor. Aro is a highly cited researcher and has published over 350 peer reviewed scientific papers, mostly on the structure and function of the photosynthetic apparatus and how to enhance photosynthesis for production of clean energy in order to replace the fossil fuels. Aro has been chairing during the years 2008-2019 two subsequent Academy of Finland Center of Excellences (CoE) and is a partner of an Australian CoE (ARC) on Plant Energy Biology. Aro is currently involved in a Nordic CoE “NordAqua” project (2017-2022) with nine other partners from Nordic counties, which she chaired for the first triennial and is now continuing as a vice-chair for the second triennial. In 2018 Aro was invited as foreign fellow to the US National Academy of Sciences (NAS), and is an honorary doctor of the Chinese Academy of Science, Umeå University and the University of Helsinki.

Aro has had many research- and science policy-related national and international duties of trust and has served in the board/search committee for the Millenium Prize and the Körber European science prize. Aro has been a board member in European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) from 2014 and then vice-chair for the years 2017-2019. She has also been a president of the International Society of Photosynthesis Research (ISPR) and the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters.

Research

Our basic research focuses on regulation of photosynthesis, which is intimately linked with plant stress responses and signalling cascades to regulate nuclear gene expression. Particular emphasis is also put on evolutionary aspects of regulation of thylakoid light harvesting and energy conversion systems. A diverse set of photoautotrophic oxygen evolving organisms, from cyanobacteria, green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and diatoms to a moss Physcomitrella patens and ferns as well as to the model higher plants Arabidopsis thaliana and spruce, are used in our research. We aim at understanding (i) the mechanisms and dynamic regulation of the rapid photophysical and photochemical processes of the light energy capture and the photosynthetic electron transfer, (ii) how the structure and organisation of the thylakoid protein complexes dynamically respond to environmental changes, and (iii) how the signals originating from the photosynthetic apparatus relay information to the nuclear genome for regulation of gene expression and subsequent acclimation of the photosynthetic organism to changing environmental conditions. Likewise (iv) the evolution of thylakoid regulatory mechanisms, with special emphasis on the replacement of the cyanobacterial flavodiiron proteins with other regulatory mechanisms in higher plants, is investigated to understand how it was possible for photosynthetic organisms to move from oceans to the land.
Our applied research focuses on the production of carbon-neutral biosolarfuels and chemicals using cyanobacteria as a production chassis. In the synthetic biology program, we aim at production of fuels and chemicals with high photon conversion efficiency, significantly higher compared to natural pathways. The main goal is economically viable conversion of solar energy to a fuel using inexhaustible raw materials: sunlight, water and CO2. Applied research is intimately integrated with our basic research and comprises the designing, engineering and optimisation of light harvesting, electron transfer and metabolic pathways.

Publications

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