Faculty of Natural Sciences Faculty News and events
Glücksklee Student Team Wins Lower Saxony Science Prize 2023

Glücksklee Student Team Wins Lower Saxony Science Prize 2023

Plant symbioses under microgravity

The Glücksklee team took the initiative to design a project to investigate self-fertilising plants in space: the aim was to assess the functionality of the symbiosis between nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria and the Mediterranean barrel medic Medicago truncatula under microgravity conditions. This legume receives the nitrogen it needs from the symbiotic bacteria, which in turn receive vital nutrients from the plant. Self-fertilising plants would be particularly useful for long-term missions in space, in order to provide researchers with food without having to rely on fertiliser to be carried along.
The project was awarded a prize by the German Aerospace Centre, which included the experimental implementation of the project idea on the International Space Station (ISS). The experiment was flown to the ISS on 14 March 2023, followed by a 26-day implementation phase. The evaluation of the results has only just begun.

With the interdisciplinary collaboration of Bachelor's and Master's students in the fields of plant sciences, mechanical engineering and computer science, the student project was able to convince the Scientific Commission of Lower Saxony, so that they have now been awarded the Science Prize of Lower Saxony 2023 in the student category: "The award of this special prize in a competitive international competition testifies to the scientific excellence and relevance of the project and their commitment," said Falko Mohrs, Minister for Science and Culture of the State of Lower Saxony. The science prize, which was officially presented to the team on 22 November 2023 at the Landesmuseum Hannover, is endowed with a total of 3,500 euros for personal use.

Dr. Natalija Hohnjec, Laboratory Head of the Department of Plant Genome Research and scientific supervisor of the project ”Glücksklee”, emphasises: "After many years of research on plant symbioses, it was something very special for me to accompany students in such an extraordinary project. Thanks to their diverse expertise and creative approach to complex requirements, the team has made possible something truly unique!"
Prof. Dr. Helge Küster, Managing Director of the Institute of Plant Genetics, adds: "I am particularly pleased that a group of our Bachelor's and Master's plant science students have designed this exciting, interdisciplinary project together with students of technical disciplines and have driven it forward with great commitment at the Institute of Plant Genetics over a period of almost two years!"

The construction of an autonomous phytochamber required for the experiment was carried out with technical support from the Institute of Production Development and Equipment Engineering and the Institute of Microelectronic Systems at Leibniz University Hannover (LUH).

„Nahrung aus der Luft“ nicht nur auf der Erde, sondern auch im Weltall

On 13 December 2023, Justin Sondheim, Elsa Culemann und Dominik Woiwode from Team Glücksklee, together with Dr. Natalija Hohnjec und Prof. Dr. Helge Küster, will present their work on stage at the Herrenhausen Late event series organised by the Volkswagen Foundation and Leibniz University Hannover at the Xplanatorium Herrenhausen in Hanover. The event will be streamed live and the presentation video will remain available on YouTube afterwards.

The Faculty of Natural Sciences congratulates on this great success!