The importance of plant biology is difficult to overstate. Research on plants has led to many fundamental breakthroughs, from Gregor Mendel`s elucidation of the basic principles of genetics, via Barbara McClintock`s discovery of transposons, to the recent work on epigenetics and RNA silencing. During the last 20 years, the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana has emerged as a primary experimental system for modern molecular biology.
In addition, plants are the primary producers of the world`s ecosystems, and thus central to life on earth, a fact to which rising food prices and a rapidly changing climate have brought renewed attention. Although we do not work directly on applications such as crop improvement, there is no doubt that basic research on plant biology can play a major role in solving some of the problems with sustainable food and energy production mankind will face in the 21st century.
These are exciting times, and there is so much we do not yet understand, from the biology of roots, via basic gene regulation (in particular the involvement of epigenetics, a strength at the GMI), to the genetic architecture of adaptive variation. The possibility of fundamental discoveries in these and other areas revolutionizing agriculture seems high, and I believe that, speaking for everyone at the GMI, we are excited to be part of this endeavor.
The objective of the Gregor Mendel Institute is to complement the other institutes at the Vienna Biocenter by providing a world class environment for basic research in plant biology — an environment in which some of the most challenging and important questions of modern biology can be addressed.