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We are a premier research institute embedded at Michigan State University and funded by the US Department of Energy and other funding bodies. Our mission is to discover how photosynthetic organisms work on the molecular level, in order, ultimately, to develop technologies that improve human lives.

What We Stand For

Many solutions for 21st century problems will come from photosynthetic organisms. We need to understand how their components work together and how they thrive in natural environments, so that we can harness them for sustainable applications.

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Basic research on photosynthesis, metabolism, and defense; Creating new technologies targeting renewables, agriculture, and medical fields

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50 years of training successful scientists; Legacy of awards and job placements in academia, industry, and government

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12 internationally recognized researchers; Prolific publication record; Major funding from the US Department of Energy

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Cross-disciplinary research that tackles big scientific problems impossible to solve in individual labs

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A friendly group of over 120 members; Internationally and culturally diverse

see code of ethics





"I think the most valuable resource [at the PRL] is its people, in my experience everyone is so knowledgeable and willing to collaborate." Mauricio Tejera-Nieves, postdoctoral researcher in the Walker lab

What We Do

We focus on basic science of photosynthetic organisms, develop real-world applications, and provide a training ground for future scientists.

Two people use a device to scan a leaf Fundamental Research

Basic research into the biology of plants, cyanobacteria, and algae. Projects include:

                  • Modeling photosynthesis in dynamic environments
                  • Resistance against pathogens, herbivores and environmental stress
                  • Cell organization and metabolism

view projects


Sustainable Solutions An instrument clamps to a leaf

Innovative, ground-breaking applied research to address energy and food challenges:

  • New technologies, used in over 26 countries, to diagnose plant health and performance
  • Engineering bacteria for industrial and medical applications
  • Green economy: Biofuels and renewables through algae and microbial communities

view projects  


A student holds up a vial to a green lightFuture Scientists

We pride ourselves in providing graduate students and postdocs with:

                  • Quality research and educational environment
                  • Strategic institutional goals that allow trainees to pursue well-defined research projects
                  • Freedom to pursue individual research interests
                  • Legacy of prominent and award-winning alumni in academia and beyond

more information


Brief History

A brief history of the MSU-DOE Plant Research Laboratory, from its beginnings in 1965 to present day.

Selected Milestones & Achievements

The front door of the plant biology building, framed by tree branches

  • 55+ years of scientific research and achievements. Read more about the history of the PRL.
  • Three current or emeritus faculty National Academy of Sciences members and many past members 
  • Three Highly Cited Researchers over the last five years, according to Thompson Reuters/Clarivate
  • Past members have gone on to work at National Institutes of Health, The Plant Cell, Children’s National Hospital, Soli Organic, ThermoFisher Scientific and have been recognized with multiple awards
  • Postdocs have gone on to run labs at the University of Hawaii, Bishop's University, Utica University and more
  • 22 technologies patented by our faculty
    members in the last five years


Selected Funders

Our core interdisciplinary research is funded by the US Department of Energy. Our labs also pursue independent research projects funded by other organizations.

The US Deparement of Energy Office of Science logo

National Institutes of Health logo National Science Foundation NASA logo
ADVANCE proof of concept fund logo Wagemingen University and Research logo