Five questions to Ute Höcker
How can your research in the Research Area 1 of CEPLAS contribute to farmers being able to grow SMART plants in the future, which are adapted to changing climate conditions?
That´s a tough one since my lab is engaged in fundamental research. But I am a strong believer that knowledge gathered in community-level basic research will eventually lead to ground-breaking applications that are of benefit to humankind – it´s been proven many times. Within CEPLAS, we study how the environment regulates chloroplast development, and since chloroplasts are the building blocks of chemical energy on earth (photosynthesis) – we need to have a deep understanding of the genetic principles underlying their differentiation. This is particularly important because climate change imposes stress onto plants and stress challenges the formation of fully-functional chloroplasts.
What do you need today in your daily work that you did not learn during your education?
I think life as a researcher never stops training you. You have to keep learning because knowledge increases and methodology advances far beyond the original training. Apart from that, I never formally learned how to teach students, but I very much enjoy teaching and that is motivation in itself. My original training in Agricultural Sciences, including work on dairy farms in Germany and Minnesota, USA, has indeed helped me understand the importance of the long-term goals of CEPLAS.
Which part of your daily work do you like best?
Clearly interacting with my group and other scientists, reading exciting scientific papers and teaching.
Which scientist would you like to meet and what would you talk about?
There are probably many modern-day scientists to have exciting discussions with. However, ever since I worked on maize genetics for my PhD, I would have loved to meet Barbara McClintock who was born in 1902 and died in 1992. She received the Nobel Price for her ground-breaking discovery of maize transposons during the 1940´s and 50´s. If it were still possible, I would talk to her about her scientific approaches and how it was like for her to be among the first women in science, being allowed only a little corner lab bench at the famous Cold Spring Harbor Lab close to New York, but nevertheless succeeding immensely.
What's your favorite thing to do after work?
I very much enjoy that Cologne is a buzzing, metropolitan city – I could not live in a small town! I enjoy theater, going to the movies, meeting friends at restaurants. But I regenerate by going out into the nature, in particular I enjoy hiking and camping in the Alps.
Position: Professor, Institute for Plant Sciences, University of Cologne
In CEPLAS since:
Place of birth: