Congratulations to Govindjee, University of Illinois professor emeritus of biophysics, biochemistry, and plant biology, who delivered the 2022 Anton Lang Lecture at Michigan State University this spring.

"I was thrilled to have been chosen by MSU to deliver the prestigious 2022 Anton Lang Lecture. I have had the highest regard for his life and contributions,” Govindjee said about the late Anton Lang, a respected biologist and plant physiologist.

His talk, entitled, “A Journey for Photosynthesis in Urbana with a focus on Robert Emerson,” highlighted the work of Govindjee’s PhD mentor. Emerson was a renowned photosynthesis researcher who discovered the photosynthetic unit, the minimum quanta needed per oxygen molecule, the Red Drop effect, and that plants have two photosystems.

Govindjee himself is an internationally recognized scholar who has made key contributions to the scientific understanding of photosynthesis. He joined the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty in 1961 and has been a professor emeritus since 1999. He is best known for his work on the exploitation of light emission (chlorophyll a fluorescence) to understand and predict photosynthesis. His work also established the unique role of bicarbonate on the electron acceptor side of Photosystem II; without it, there is no photosynthesis.

Govindjee with a photo of his mentor, professor Robert Emerson. Photo by Fred Zwicky.
Govindjee with a photo of his mentor, professor Robert Emerson. Photo by Fred Zwicky.

“It was really a great pleasure to present the discoveries and stories of two top pioneers of photosynthesis—Robert Emerson (1903-1959) and Eugene Rabinowitch (1898-1973)—my own mentors. In addition, in my talk, I pointed out that even Nobel laureates could be (and) have been wrong. Finally, it was thrilling for me that I could interact, directly or indirectly, on stories related to the evolution of the Z-Scheme of photosynthesis with many,” Govindjee said.

“Professor Govindjee gave an inspiring lecture revisiting some of the major milestones in the history of photosynthesis reminding us of the joy of scientific discovery,” said Christoph Benning, Michigan State professor and director of its Plant Research Laboratory, in a release.

Govindjee thanked several people for their support: Christoph Benning, Robert Blankenship, Julian Eaton-Rye, Rajni Govindjee, Dave Kramer, Don Ort, Tom Sharkey, and Josh and Wim Vermaas.

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