ASPB Member Spotlight — Lucas Vanhaelewyn

Lucas Vanhaelewyn

Title: Doctoral Researcher

Place of Work or School: Laboratory of Functional Plant Biology, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium Member Since: 2017

Research Area: Ultraviolet-B radiation in relation to plants: phototropism, defense, and secondary metabolites 

What would you tell colleagues to encourage them to join ASPB? 

ASPB is a very diverse plant science community. It inspires scientists to think outside the box and enriches both your professional and personal life in many unexpected ways. The Plant Biology meetings offer interesting workshops and high-quality symposia, as well as plentiful opportunities for building a solid network. Joining ASPB has been a boost for my professional development. Not to forget, the annual meeting is organized in different and attractive locations, so you get to visit awesome places, such as Hawaii, and Niagara Falls, when the meeting was in Montreal. 

Was someone instrumental in getting you to join ASPB? 

Yes, both of my PIs, Filip Vandenbussche and Dominique Van Der Straeten, have been very supportive of my professional development. They entrusted me with representing our research group abroad in Hawaii and other places, something I am and always will be grateful for. 

Have you enhanced your career, lab, research, or education using ASPB, the Plant Biology meeting, section meetings,, The Plant Cell, Plant Physiology, or Plant Direct

I joined ASPB during the first year of my PhD. Both ASPB and have greatly enhanced my professional development in terms of exposure, networking, and confidence-building. ASPB is devoted to young scientist development; for me personally, the ASPB Conviron Scholars program was an enjoyable way to grow as a scientist and to meet wonderful friends, experts, and peers without borders. Two of my fellow ASPB Conviron Scholars have already found their way to Ghent for a visit. In addition, I found support within ASPB for my latest publication, and we made some nice connections with like-minded scientists. There is an amazing team working behind the scenes at ASPB and Plantae. I would recommend that any (young) plant scientist join ASPB and consider volunteering at one of the meetings—it is a fun way to learn while getting connected. What are your hobbies? I wouldn’t be a plant scientist if my hobby wasn’t plants. My passion lies in applying my plant knowledge in the real world, especially for capacity building in developing countries. It began with my consultant role offering advice to an agricultural company named NASECO Seeds in Uganda. Later, I initiated an ambitious collaboration with Ssemu Agrotech Consultants, also in Uganda. The main goal of our collaboration was to translate our plant and agricultural knowledge into useful applications and products that could benefit rural farmers. We generated and delivered nearly 1.8 million high-quality grafted mango seedlings (Tommy Atkins, Kent, Palvin, Zillate, and Apple Mango) and orange seedlings (Valencia and Washington navel) to the government, which in turn distributed these plant materials freely to rural farmers in an effort to improve wealth and public health. At the moment we are advancing in value addition, aiming at the local production of fruit juices and dried fruits. It is a challenging and fulfilling way of spending my spare time. In the near future, my fiancée, who has a PhD in agricultural economics, and I would like to engage in similar projects in Asia, starting with my potato consultancy project in Vietnam for the upcoming PhD bootcamp, supported by belgapom. 

ASPB members share a common goal of promoting the growth, development, and outreach of plant biology as a pure and applied science. This series features some of the dedicated and innovative members of ASPB who believe that membership in our Society is crucial to the future of plant biology. If you are interested in contributing to this feature, please contact ASPB Membership at

This interview was originally published in ASPB News 

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