Research Groups and Units

The Department of Botany and Plant Biology consists of 7 research groups and 2 research units linked to the department. A summary of their research areas, together with the names of the group leaders are listed below. As part of each summary, or on the menu to the left, are direct links to the specific group/unit websites where more information can be found. The names and contact details of all the members of the department can be found in the directory (French only).


Barberon Plant Nutrition and Development
Fitzpatrick Plant Biochemistry and Physiology
Chloroplast Molecular Genetics
Hothorn Structural Plant Biology
Price Plant Systematics and Biodiversity
Lopez-Molina Lopez-Molina's Laboratory
Ulm Plant Molecular Biology
Fitzpatrick Microbiology Unit
Fitzpatrick Units linked to the Department
Formerly in
the Department



Plant Nutrition and Development

Prof. M. Barberon

Our research focuses on nutrient transport in roots and plant adaptation to abiotic stresses. We are particularly interested to characterize the relations between root development and plant nutrition.

Lab website under construction...


Plant Biochemistry and Physiology

Prof. T. Fitzpatrick

Our research focuses on plant metabolism, in particular the biochemistry and physiology behind vitamin biosynthesis and degradation and how these processes interact with other aspects of general primary plant metabolism. We also address aspects of stress physiology and how alteration of vitamin metabolism affects the response to abiotic stress responses. We use bacteria, yeast and the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and a range of multi-disciplinary biological and chemical techniques as part of our research programme.

Further information


Chloroplast Molecular Genetics

Prof. M. Goldschmidt-Clermont, Prof. J.D. Rochaix

We investigate how two genomes, in the nuclear and in the chloroplast compartments, coordinate their activities to construct and maintain the photosynthetic apparatus. In another aspect of our research, we try to better understand how the photosynthetic machinery responds to changes in environmental conditions, and in particular to variations in the quality and intensity of light. The unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and the flowering land plant Arabidopsis thaliana are our experimental models.

Further information


Structural Plant Biology

Prof. M. Hothorn

Signal perception at the cell surface and transduction of this signal to the cell’s interior is essential to all life forms. Plants have evolved membrane-integral receptor proteins and associated signaling cascades that drastically differ from the well-studied systems in animals. Our aim is to dissect these signaling pathways in mechanistic detail.

A second line of research, aims at uncovering the roles of linear phosphate polymers (inorganic polyphosphates) in plants, yeast and bacteria. We are interested where these polymers are located within a cell, how they are being synthesized/broken down and what’s their cellular function and physiological role.

Further information


Plant Systematics and Biodiversity

Prof. M. Price, Dr. C. Chatelain, Dr. P. Clerc (CC), Dr. L. Gautier (CC), Dr. P.-A. Loizeau (CC), Dr. Y. Naciri-Graven (CC), Dr. M. Perret, Dr. F. Stauffer (CC), Dr. J.P. Theurillat (CC), Dr. N. Wyler.


The Plant Systematics and Biodiversity laboratory is situated in the Conservatory and Botanical Garden of the City of Geneva (Director: Dr. P.-A. Loizeau). It is entirely integrated into the research structure of the Institute. The principle research themes concern the study of biodiversity, systematics and evolution of plants and funghi. The research groups are either geographical (Switzerland, Madagascar, Corsica and South America: Paraguay and Venezuela), or by taxonomic group, notably the Aquifoliceae, Dicranaceae, Gesneriaceae, Palmeae, Parmialaceae, Phellinaceae, Sapotaceae etc. Different techniques have been used: biosystematics, vegetation studies, flower studies, population genetics, micro-morphology, molecular phylogeny, phyto-sociology, geo-referenced information systems (GIS), remote sensing, etc. To facilitate this, the laboratory is divided into 4 units: "Anatomy and Morphology", "Microscopy and chromatography", "Phylogeny and molecular genetics" and "SIG- remote sensing". Around sixty projects are currently ongoing.

Further information (in French)


The Conservatory and Botanical Garden is an Institution of the City of Geneva, known internationally for its herbarium, its library and its research. Its herbarium is classified amongst the ten largest in the world (6 million specimens), its richness (more than 100,000 type specimens have been scanned) and its accessibility (on-line data base). Its library is also one of the most important in its field (200,000 books and 3000 journals). This mine of information is a fundamental resource for the research in the laboratory of Plant Systematics and Biodiversity. It allows the promotion of other projects in collaboration with other institutes, such as the online data base for flowering plants of Africa (around 160,000 names), liverwort plants (around 30,000 names), that of Paraguay (14,500 names and 56,000 specimens) and for Corsica (10,000 names and 25,000 specimens). A number of projects are underway to scan and make electronically available types (catalogue of types). Finally, a sector "conservation and management" complete the projects in collaboration with the "Direction générale Nature et Paysage de l'Etat de Genève".

Further information (in French)


Lopez-Molina's Laboratory

Prof. L. Lopez-Molina

Control of Seed Germination in Arabidopsis thaliana

Further information


Plant Molecular Biology

Prof. R. Ulm

Research Interests:

  • UV-B Perception and Signalling in Plants
  • MAP Kinase Phosphatases and Environmental Stress Signalling

Further information


Microbiology Unit

Prof. T. Fitzpatrick

Previously dispersed within the department of botany and plant biology, research and teaching activities in microbiology were recently fused to form the Microbiology Unit. These activities cover the following aspects :


Dr. K. Perron

In our laboratory we are studying the mechanism of cross-resistance between heavy metals and antibiotics. Molecular bacteriology and biochemistry methods are used to monitor the effect of Zn, Cd, Co and Cu on the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Our group interacts strongly with the section of pharmaceutical sciences and the medical faculty for both teaching activities and research.

Further information (in French)

Microbial Ecology

Dr. M. Tonolla

The activity of this laboratory that is part of the Institute of Microbiology in Tessin, is centered on phylogeny, typing and detection of micro-organisms in the fields of epidemiology, biosecurity and microbial ecology (populations of stratified aquatic ecosystems).

Further information (in French)

Applied Microbiology

Dr. F. Barja

For several years, our group is involved in developing a research project on the role of cytoskeletal elements (actin, tubulin and α-actinin) and their remodeling by proteases in the initiation and maintenance of polarized growth in filamentous fungi using biochemical, molecular and electron microscopic techniques. We are also using this model for testing the effect of fungicides on cellular growth in fungi.

In applied microbiology we are involved in the production of vinegar by submerged oxidation process in a pilot plant using 'starters' from traditional vinegar fermentation. In order to standardise the process, we also identify and characterize acetic acid bacteria during the acetification process using molecular, biochemical and morphological analysis (European project CRAFT).

Further information (in French)

Microbial Genetics

Dr. X. Perret

Fondamental research on the molecular mechanisms involved in symbiotic associations between Leguminous plants and soil bacteria known as Rhizobium. In particular, the genetics of symbiotic nitrogen fixation by the broad host-range bacterium Rhizobium sp. NGR234 are being analyzed using molecular methods.

Further information (in French)


Units linked to the Department

Physiomatics , Dr. R. Degli Agosti

Plant Imaging Unit , Dr. S. Loubéry



Microscopie des plantes, Dr. M. Crèvecoeur