Travelling inside a plant cell

A market of a different kind at Southbank will be able to transport people into a plant cell on Friday afternoon and evening.

The Virtual Plant Cell, developed by the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology, will be showcased by La Trobe University scientists at Queensbridge Square from 5pm to 9pm.

Virtual-reality headsets will take people on an immersive journey through a plant as part of National Science Week’s Market of the Mind.

Users can explore the sub-microscopic inner world of a plant and learn in an engaging way about its many complex processes.

“We’re taking full advantage of the incredible opportunities that virtual-reality technology is offering to take people to places where they can’t go,” said the ARC Centre’s Karina Price.

“At Market of the Mind, our focus is on phosphate. The Virtual Plant Cell will be used to showcase the importance of phosphate use by plants and how our molecular research here is critical for future food security.”

Improving fertiliser use by crops, in particular phosphorus use, will be essential for sustainable agriculture.

Through research at the Centre for AgriBioscience at La Trobe University, scientists are discovering ways to make plants more efficient in their phosphate use and boost plant performance under limited phosphate.

“The world needs to dramatically increase its food production,” said Ms Price. “Our research aims to better understand how plants create and use energy, in order to improve them for agriculture.

“We want the community to understand how we do this and why. Understanding complicated cell biology becomes easier when you can see first-hand what goes on inside a cell.

“We’re passionate about educating the community and highlighting the importance of plant research. What better way to do this than immersing people in our world?”

Dominic Manley, from Augmented and Virtual Reality Labs which led the technical management of the project, said: “Virtual reality is forecast to be a significant disruptive force in education and other sectors over the coming years.”

The Virtual Plant Cell will be used in some Australian schools next year, pioneering the way for curriculum-linked virtual-reality education.

  • The Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology’s Education and Outreach activity is funded by the Australian Research Council. National Science Week is supported by the Australian Government.

Media contact: Tim Newhouse – t.newhouse@latrobe.edu.au – 94792315 / 0416306759

Picture: James Campbell

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