JosephJoseph Stinziano

I am a 2nd year PhD student in plant physiology.

Tell us about yourself

I'm from, and currently live in, London, Ontario. I particularly like the natural areas in the city, especially along the river. I like to engage in physical activity for fun, whether it's running, rock climbing, or cycling. I also enjoy playing board games with friends.

What is your research about?

I study how climate change and day length affect growth and photosynthesis in trees. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert sunlight, carbon dioxide from the air, and water into sugars and oxygen. Seasonal changes in day length affect the life cycles of plants, and are very important in controlling how trees grow and photosynthesize.

I study how climate change and day length affect growth and photosynthesis in trees.
 

What have you enjoyed the most about your research?

I've enjoyed the continuous learning. As a researcher, not only do you have to run your own experiments, you also have to keep up with what other researchers around the planet are doing. This requires reading and learning about others' research on a daily basis. It keeps me feeling intellectually stimulated and encourages me to think, which is one of the reasons I chose to pursue scientific research.

The lesson learned is that you can fix anything if you put your mind to it, and this applies to all aspects of life.
 

What have you found most challenging about your research?

The most challenging aspect of my research has been when a piece of equipment breaks down or an experiment fails. It happens to everyone at some point and is frustrating. However, you learn to troubleshoot the problem, figure out where the mistake was made (or whether one was made), fix the issue and move on. The lesson learned is that you can fix anything if you put your mind to it, and this applies to all aspects of life.

How has your research experience influenced your career path?

My research experience has given me excellent skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, written and oral communication, and project management. These skill all improve my career prospects in areas as diverse as business and science. I thoroughly enjoy doing researcher however, so I currently plan on continuing along a research path, hopefully to become a professor one day!

As the climate changes, the ability of forests to perform this function will change, and my research will help to understand how forests will respond...
 

How has your research impacted the world?

My research focuses on growth in trees and forests. Forests cover a huge portion of Earth's land, and act to reduce the effects of human fossil fuel burning on the planet. As the climate changes, the ability of forests to perform this function will change, and my research will help to understand how forests will respond to climate change, so that we know what measures we need to take to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

What do you predict will be the next big breakthrough in your field of research?

I predict that the next major breakthrough in my field of research will be understanding how multiple stresses interact to affect plant growth and photosynthesis. Most research has focused on one or two stresses at a time (e.g. water and temperature stress), however there is very little understanding how four or more stresses interact to affect plant growth (e.g. water, temperature, nutrition, light). With a clever experiment and persistence, this area is ripe for a breakthrough.

What motivates you to do research?

I got interested in research from an opportunity in high school from my biology teacher that paired me with a researcher. Until that point I never really thought about it. But once I saw what research was like, that's what I knew I wanted to do. When I took biology in university I met an insect researcher with whom I worked for a couple years until I took my first plant science course. The teaching assistant for that course encouraged me to attend graduate school for plant science, which is how I ended up meeting my supervisor and researching photosynthesis.

Tell us about your 'Eureka' moment

When I was analyzing the data generated from my current experiment, I came to the realization that more photosynthesis does not mean more growth. Until this point, I made the assumption that more photosynthesis should lead to more growth. I became very interested in where the carbon (from the carbon dioxide fixed in photosynthesis) was going. That's when I realized that nobody knows! Plants can release carbon into the air and into the soil via paths that are difficult to detect. So finding where the carbon is going pushes our technological limits.

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