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Interview with Professor Seon-Yeong Kwak, majoring in Biomaterial Engineering.

2023-03-08l Hit 383

Last year, a convergence research team led by Professor Seonyeong Kwak in Biomaterials Engineering major at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Professor Dae Hong Jeong in the Department of Chemistry Education at the College of Education, developed nanosensors that monitor multiple stress signal molecules in plants in real-time. This study was published in the prestigious journal Nature Nanotechnology on December 15, 2022. We could listen to detailed stories related to the research.

Q. What made you start this research?

Plants have provided a lot of resources to humans. Since recent climate change stunts the plant's growth, it is important to diagnose diseases early and understand the environmental conditions that plants experience. Plants have to tolerate their given environment. Unlike animals, plants cannot make sounds or displace to avoid unfavorable conditions. Instead, plants produce signals in the form of chemicals. When plant biologists investigated signaling in plants, they discovered that plants communicate not by making sounds but by producing chemicals. So, we wanted to develop a nanosensor that detects chemicals produced within plants, especially when plants are stressed.

Q. Please briefly explain the plasmon nanosensor developed in this study.

Our nanosensor can simultaneously detect a variety of chemicals by surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). SERS is a sensitive technique that enhances Raman scattering by molecules adsorbed on rough metal surfaces or nanostructures. Depending on how well the nanostructures are designed and constructed, the Raman scattering can be amplified up to 1010.

Q. The significance of research (novelty)

I have been studying nanosensors for real-time monitoring of plants. Previously, radicals, H2O2 or NO, could mostly be detected when plants were diseased or stressed. The nanosensor we developed in this study is designed to detect multiple plant endogenous chemicals in living plants. One of the great advantages of this nanosensor is that one type of sensor can detect a variety of signaling molecules without any labeling or specific ligands. Instead, we used synthetic polymers that attract various analytes to the nanosensor surface to amplify the Raman scattering of the analytes. Additionally, our nanosensor is optically active in near-infrared regions, minimizing chlorophyll autofluorescence and collecting signals with a high signal-to-noise ratio.

Q. Difficulties and the process of overcoming them while researching.

The advantages mentioned above were difficulties and things to overcome while studying. This research underwent many trials and errors because it had to solve problems that no one had solved before. We kept trying different approaches until we found one that worked.

Q. Areas to study further in the future.

We are currently expanding the range of plant species to study and analytes to detect.
We want to use nanosensors someday to learn about horticultural crops and trees. We are also developing sensitive portable detectors that can be used on farms.

Q. A word to the students at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

I hope you enjoy and actively participate in everything given to you, whether it is a program, resource, or class. Through this, I want you to use it a lot for self-development. In addition, there must be areas that only the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences can do. I hope you actively think about what you can do only in our College, not what others do. For example, people talk a lot about semiconductors, but not everyone only does semiconductors (laughs). So, I want you to think creatively about the technology that can save our identity and what we can do better.