Paul Falkowski (Rutgers)

Paul Falkowski (Rutgers)

Butler Seminar Series

Event Date/Location

October 16, 2019 -
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Thomas Laboratory 003


  • Professor Paul Falkowski

    Paul Falkowski

    Distinguished Professor
    Rutgers University
    Departments of Earth & Planetary Sciences and Marine and Coastal Sciences

    After graduating from the University of British Columbia and doing a 9 month postdoc at the University of Rhode Island, he was hired at Brookhaven National Laboratory as staff scientist in the newly formed Oceanographic and Atmospheric Sciences Division. He worked there for 23 years and developed the field of environmental biophysics. In 1998, he moved his research group to Rutgers University. In 2007, he was elected to the National Academy of Science for his research on the global carbon cycle.


Quantifying photosynthetic efficiency in nature

Oxygenic photosynthesis is the most complex energy transduction process in nature. The light reactions, containing four major protein complexes encoded by more than 140 genes, can operate at close to 70% efficiency under optimal conditions in the laboratory. That is about 70% of absorbed photons can be converted to chemical bond energy. Using a biophysical approach, we developed methods to assess the actual efficiency in nature. We use two instruments, designed in our laboratory: an amplitude based fluorometer and a picosecond lifetime based fluorometer, to quantitatively derive photosynthetic energy conversion efficiency in the world’s oceans in real time. Our analysis reveals that the actual photosynthetic energy conversion efficiency is only about 35%. In this talk I will examine what limits that efficiency at the molecular level, and how eukaryotic phytoplankton have adapted on ecological and evolutionary time.


Free and open to the university community and the public.


Martin Jonikas, Department of Molecular Biology