MSU researcher talks about sending seeds into space and improving plant resilience

Michigan State University is one of the top public research universities in the world and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities, widely regarded as among the top research-intensive institutions in North America. The following story highlights one of the many examples of MSU’s research excellence and innovation.

Can seeds sent into space grow better plants on Earth?

Federica Brandizzi is a University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University and an MSU Research Foundation Professor who wanted to find out. She is a professor of plant biology with the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory in the College of Natural Science and serves as the science director of the Department of Energy Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. Brandizzi will be the research presentation speaker during MSU’s Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 15.

In 2022, Brandizzi sent seeds fortified with amino acids aboard NASA’s Artemis I mission. Now, she and her team have planted those seeds to find ways to sustainably grow healthier plants for the future and, perhaps, even grow plants in space.

Brandizzi has also made a discovery that turns the natural kill switch in plant cells into a “life switch.” This helps crops better withstand and survive extreme weather conditions such as drought and flooding caused by climate change. She has also discovered a new cellular pathway that helps plants protect themselves from pathogens and disease.

With more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers published and 18 patent applications filed since joining MSU, Brandizzi is actively engaged in the broader scientific community, serving as president of the North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee for the advancement of fundamental research, senior editor for The Plant Journal, a leading scientific journal in the field of plant sciences, and an active participant in many outreach activities to foster the education of precollege students and teachers. Her many awards and honors include the rank of fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Canada Research Chair, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council David Phillips Fellowship.

Since establishing her research laboratory at MSU, Brandizzi’s research has been supported by numerous federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation. Additionally, Brandizzi’s research and lab receive support from the MSU Research Foundation and from Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization awards to develop an exciting research portfolio in the basic and applied sciences, resulting in a combined total of approximately $2 million annually in grants.

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