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.

Date and Venue for 2022

  • Thursday, 3 November 2022, 14:15 – c. 17:45h. Room CHN F 46, Universitätstrasse 16, ETH Zurich. Kick-off talks held by PSC lecturers; and
  • Thursday, 1 December 2022, full day. Room HG F 26.3, Rämistrasse 101, ETH Zurich. Group presentations held by students, exact schedule will be announced later.

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

Luiz Domeignoz Horta, UZH; Beat Keller, UZH; Stefano Mintchev, ETHZ; Barbara Pfister, ETHZ; Klaus Schläppi, UniBas; Meredith Schuman UZH; Sara Simonini, UZH; Thomas Wicker, UZH; Tobias Züst, UZH; Thomas Boller, UniBas; Sylvia Martínez, UniBas.

Program, Thursday, 1 December 2022 (student talks)

09:15 Welcome Sylvia Martinez, PSC

Understanding and controlling chloroplast gene expression (Questions by group Simonini)

Barbara Pfister group: Trang Dang, Alexandra Siffert, Manuel Weber

Can plant diversity boost sustainable agriculture? (Questions by group Schläppi)

Luiz Domeignoz group: Saskia Aeschbach, Nompumelelo Dammie, Tomoki Loeillot, Nikolaos Minadakis
10:40 Break  

Plant responsiveness to microbial feedbacks (Q: group Züst)

Klaus Schläppi group: Elena Giuliano, Clara Gund, Nicole Härter, Sarah van den Broek

Epigenetic control of embryo development and patterning (Q: group Pfister)

Sara Simonini group: Priska Flury, Maura Ganz, Sneha Gupta

Triticeae genomics (Q: group Keller)

Thomas Wicker group: Maomao Feng, Nguyen Duy Nhiem, Carlo Pasini
12:55 Lunch break  

Molecular diversity of disease resistance mechanisms in wheat (Q: group Wicker)

Beat Keller group: Marta Belloli, Wen Chong, Corina Oppliger

Environmental robotics (Q: group Schuman)

Stefano Mintchev group: Sam Field, Damian Käch, Tetiana Serebriakova, Shengchang Zhang
15:20 Break  

Spatial genetics of plant communities (Q: group Mintchev)

Meredith Schuman group: Monica Camareno, Anja Logo, Yi Wang, Magdalena Wey

Plant-herbivore coevolution as a driver of diversity (Q: group Domeignoz)

Tobias Züst group: Elias Barmettler, Marion Gaillard, Victor Mac
17:00 Concluding remarks  


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 their lecturer to define their talks scheduled for December 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 December 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.

Program, Thursday, 3 November 2022 (kick-off talks)

14h15 Introduction to the colloquium Sylvia Martínez, Uni Basel & PSC
14h30 Molecular diversity of disease resistance mechanisms in wheat Beat Keller, UZH
14h45 Understanding and controlling chloroplast gene expression Barbara Pfister, ETHZ (Sam Zeeman lab)


What we learn from the high-quality sequences of the large and repetitive genomes of wheat and its relatives

Thomas Wicker, UZH


15h30 Towards scalable spatial analyses of functional genetics in real plant communities

Meredith Schuman, UZH


Drone-assisted eDNA surveys for biodiversity monitoring and pest detection in terrestrial ecosystems Stefano Mintchev, ETHZ
16h00 To the root of plant microbiome interactions Klaus Schläppi, Uni Basel
16h15 Break  
16h30 Plant-herbivore coevolution as a driver of diversity Tobias Züst, UZH
16h45 Can plant diversity boost sustainable agriculture? Luiz Domeignoz Horta, UZH (Anna-Liisa Laine group)
17h00 Epigenetic control of embryo development and patterning Sara Simonini, UZH
17h15 Student groups meet with their respective tutor to define content and work schedule for student talks. All participants
17h45 Approximate end of first course day