Robert Blankenship

Lucille P. Markey Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences, Professor of Biology

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Blankenship studies the energy-storing reactions in photosynthetic organisms, as well as the origin and early evolution of photosynthesis.

The chemical reactions leading to long-term energy storage in photosynthetic systems take place within the membrane-bound reaction center complex and an associated group of proteins that make up an electron transport chain. Blankenship seeks to understand why essentially every photon absorbed by the system leads to a stable product, an efficiency well beyond that of artificial photosynthetic systems. To this end, he studies antenna complexes, reaction centers, electron transport proteins and isolated pigments by means of ultrafast laser flash photolysis and UV-VIS, fluorescence and electron spin resonance spectroscopies.

WashU in the News


Smart cornfields of the future

Scientists attending a workshop at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory  slipped the leash of scientific caution and tried to imagine what they would do if they could redesign plants at will. The ideas they dreamed up may make the difference between full bellies and empty ones in the near future when population may outrun the ability of traditional plant breeding to increase yields.

PARC wins renewed funding for photosynthetic research

The Department of Energy has awarded the Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC) $14.4 million for continuing research on natural and bio-inspired systems for harvesting the sun’s energy. The center, which is hosted by Washington University in St. Louis, was one of 32 projects selected for funding from among more than 200 proposals and one of only 22 to receive second-round funding.

Scientists stitch up photosynthetic megacomplex

In Science, scientists at Washington University in St. Louis report on a new technique that allowed them to extract a photosynthetic megacomplex consisting of a light antenna and two reaction centers from the membrane of a cyanobacterium. This is the first time an entire complex has been isolated and studied as a functioning whole.