Martina Koniger

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Plant physiologist investigating various processes that allow plants to optimize photosynthesis.

My research focuses on the physiological and cellular mechanisms that allow plants to deal with light intensities that may change a thousand-fold within a few minutes eg when a cloud obstructs the sun. I am particularly interested in the mechanism that plants employ to rapidly change the positioning of their chloroplasts, and the ability of chloroplasts to dissipate excess light energy in the form of heat by changing their pigment composition. We are working with a range of species including ferns, palms and weedy plants like dandelion, as well as the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana and its mutants. It is our goal to understand the workings and the relative importance of these mechanisms for the stress tolerance and fitness of species from different environments.

I am teaching two courses which expose students to the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, namely coral reefs and tropical forests. After a series of lectures at Wellesley College, students get to work at research stations in the Caribbean and Costa Rica pursuing independent research projects on questions relevant to understanding these ecosystems. I am also greatly enjoying teaching classes for non-science majors which allow me to get my excitement about the intricacies and beauty of biology across to a wider audience.

In a few of my classes Wellesley College students have the opportunity to teach lessons with plenty of hands on activities to middle school students at Mission Grammar in Boston. I greatly enjoy helping student translate what they learned in my class into meaningful activities for younger students.

I love attending cultural events especially concerts, dance performances and museum exhibitions just as much as being outdoors.


  • Diploma, University of Würzburg (Germany)
  • Ph.D., University of Würzburg (Germany)