Challenges in Plant Sciences – PSC Colloquium


This course addresses MSc and PhD students at ETH Zurich, University of Zurich and University of Basel. The seminar is organized by the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center. Lecturers are PSC members.


According to ETH Zurich regulations, a COVID certificate will be required to participate on the premises. In addition, a mask has to be worn.

Course registration


Date and Venue

  • Wednesday, 29 September 2021, 14:15–17:45h, Room ML F 39, ETH Zurich (kick-off talks held by PSC lecturers); and
  • Wednesday, 10 November 2021, 09:15– approx. 16:30h. Room LEE E 101, ETH Zurich, Leonhardstrasse 21 (group presentations held by students)

Lecturers (all of them are members of the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center)

Alexander Damm, Graham Dow, Cécile Lorrain, Monika Maurhofer, Pascal Niklaus, Sebastian Pfeilmeier, Anne Roulin, Yvonne Willi, Thomas Boller, Sylvia Martínez.

Program, Wednesday, 10 November 2021 (student talks)

09:15 Welcome Sylvia Martinez, PSC
09:20 Plant pathology and genomic tools
(Questions: group Roulin)
Cécile Lorrain group: Charlotte Joller, Aman Karwasra, Katja Stengele
09:55 Biological insect control with plant beneficial pseudomonads
(Questions: group Willi)
Monika Maurhofer group: Luana Krebs, Philipp Schuler
10:20 Break  
10:50 Assessment of plant carbon and water exchange from space
(Questions: group Pfeilmeier)
Alex Damm group: Kamran Iranshahi, Giovanni Lazzari, Fabian Wankmüller
11:25 Mechanisms underpinning biodiversity-functioning relationships
(Questions: group Dow)
Pascal Niklaus group: Margaux Didion-Gency, Elena Kost, Flavian Tschurr
12:00 Lunch break  
13:45 Utilizing stomatal development to improve crop resilience
(Questions: group Niklaus)
Graham Dow group: Lucia Piro, Liliana Scapucci, Francesca Zuffa
14:20 Plant microbiota
(Questions: group Damm)
Sebastian Pfeilmeier group: Noemi Küng, Miguel Wente
14:45 Break  
15:15 Ecology and evolution
(Questions: group Maurhofer)
Yvonne Willi group: Silvia Minana Posada, Kunqi Wang, Wenbo Xu
15:45 Transposable Elements Activity in Natural Populations
(Questions: group Lorrain)
Anne Roulin group: Julia Felber, Feiyi Lei, Ryan Toth
16:20 Concluding remarks  

Program, Wednesday, 29 September 2021 (kick-off talks)

14h15 Introduction to the colloquium Sylvia Martínez PSC
14h30 Plant microbiota - understanding the interactions that guide microbiota establishment and influence host fitness

Sebastian Pfeilmeier, ETHZ (J. Vorholt group)

14h45 Why species have restricted ranges  Yvonne Willi, Uni Basel


Linkages between stomatal development, leaf function, and climate adaptation

Graham Dow, ETHZ




15h30 TEs element and natural population evolution,   Anne Roulin, UZH


Biological insect control with plant-beneficial pseudomonads

Monika Maurhofer ETHZ


Plant pathology in the Genomics Era: using next-generation sequencing technologies for crop disease management

Cécile Lorrain, ETHZ (Bruce McDonald group)

16h15 Break  
16h30 The mechanisms underpinning biodiversity-functioning relationships

Pascal Niklaus, UZH

16h45 Assessment of plant carbon and water exchange from space Alexander Damm, UZH
17h00 Student groups meet with their respective tutor to define content and work schedule for student talks. All participants

Approximate end of first event



The colloquium “Challenges in Plant Sciences” is a core class of the Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center's PhD program and the MSc module. The colloquium introduces participants to the broad spectrum of plant sciences within the network. The topics encompass integrated knowledge on current plant research, ranging from the molecular level to the ecosystem level, and from basic to applied science while making use of the synergies between the different research groups within the PSC. The course offers the opportunity to approach interdisciplinary topics as challenges in the field of plant sciences.

During the first course day, each involved PSC lecturer gives a short talk as a general introduction to her/his research field. Subsequently, each student group prepares a presentation chosen from a variety of topics and based on literature provided by the lecturer. Students gain knowledge on topics beyond their own research area while practicing discussion and presentation skills.

Main objectives

  • Introduce PhD and Master students to the broad field of plant sciences
  • Promote active participation and independent student work
  • Enhance presentation and discussion skills
  • Increase interactions among students and PSC members
  • Promote an interdisciplinary and integrative teaching program

Course structure and timetable

  1. Students register with PSC and choose a topic (through doodle, tba).
  2. During the kick-off meeting PSC lecturers hold short talks on their research field and groups. Afterwards student groups meet with tutors/lecturers to define their talks scheduled for November and to plan the student teamwork.
  3. Between first and second colloquium day: Each student group prepares its colloquium presentation independently. Literature will be provided.
  4. In November student groups present their talks, (check the exact schedule on this website). Each student receives grading and feedback from two experts.

Grading and Credit Points

2 Credit Points for PhD and Master students. Based on 8 days of work (= 60 learning hours) consisting of 1.5 days block course and 6.5 days of independent preparation time for the talk.