New Family Members, New Research Directions

Kanaji Masakorala – Early Diagnosis of Iron Toxicity and Differentiation of iron toxicity tolerant and susceptible rice varieties

For the past two months we had a great pleasure of working together with, as we call him now – Kanaji san. Before he came to Aquaphotomics Research Department we heard a lot about him – we heard he is a great scientist with incredible knowledge about plants and that he is a much loved and admired Professor. And rightly so! As it also turns out, he is a wonderful ambassador of his country, and all of us now in the Lab would like to visit Sri Lanka and enjoy the beautiful beaches, tasty exotic food and fruits we never even knew existed, and also watch the traditional Sri Lanka dances!

Our Kanaji san is actually Prof. Dr. Kanaji Masakorala and he has had a very interesting life, travelling around the world, acquiring many skills and nice memories. He is born in Sri Lanka, where at the University of Ruhuna Sri Lanka, he got his bachelor degree in Botany! There he later on joined the Department of Botany as a lecturer. He then commenced a travel around the globe to discover more about the vast world of plants and Botany. In his master studies he specialized in Environmental toxicology at the University of Bergen, Norway and the University of Plymouth, United Kingdom. Then his travels led him to Beijing, China, where at the University of Science and Technology, he completed a PhD degree in Environmental Science in. In his MSc and PhD research, he applied different types of biomarkers in the characterization of abiotic stresses in plants due to exposure to heavy metals hydrocarbons and surfactants and others. He has been working as a Professor in Botany Since 2019 in the Department of Botany, Faculty of science, University of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka. His main research interests are in environmental toxicology, plant stress biology, phytoremediation, bioremediation and bio monitoring. And now he can also add Aquaphotomics to his specialties! He just completed a postdoctoral research through the invitational fellowship received from Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS, Oct – Dec 2022) under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Roumiana Tsenkova. He explored Aquaphotomics as a nondestructive tool to characterize stress caused by iron (Fe 2+ ) toxicity in rice plants at the seedling stage. Our Department was very happy to have him here and we are looking forward to his next, hopefully longer stay! Until then we will continue working together and support him planting aquaphotomics roots in Sri Lanka!

Lashya Manage – Defining Soil Aquaphotome

At the beginning of August this year, we were happy to actually welcome our first guest from Sri Lanka, a new post-doctoral fellow Ms. Lashya Manage. Lasha san seems to also be a world traveler, like Kanaji san. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Agroecology, Faculty of Science and Technology, Aarhus University in Denmark, where she spent 3 years (2015 to 2018) attached to the AGRO team in the Department of Agroecology. Her previous knowledge and research interest in spectral and proximal sensors were well compatible with the activities of AGRO. During her Ph. D. she explored the suitability of the benchtop visible near-infrared diffuse reflected spectroscopy and contemporary pedotransfer functions as effective, rapid, and indirect alternatives to conventional soil analysis. In addition, her project demonstrated that soil moisture effects are closely related to different soil characteristics and their potential to retain water. Her research studies led to the publishing of research articles about how spectroscopy can be used for prediction of different soil characteristics and how the moisture affects the prediction accuracy of spectroscopic measurements. Her previous research team reported that apart from the moisture content, water retention characteristics govern the moisture effect on soil spectroscopy analysis. This is how she became interested in water and soil, and learned about Aquaphotomics.

Dr. Lashya Manage joined the Aquaphotomic research group in August this year and started her work particularly attached to the Yunosato Aquaphotomics Lab in Hashimoto, Wakayama. Beyond the boundaries of the negative moisture effect, Aquaphotomics has inspired her knowledge to understand water as an information source of providing insight into soil characteristics and functionalities. She has been working in the Yunosato Lab for almost half a year now. In her first study, she investigated the difference in soil types and their characteristics with the variable soil moisture content. Apart from that, she started monitoring soil responses at different stages of plants growth and evaluating the interaction between soil and plant responses by acquiring the NIR spectra from both soil and plant leaves during the corresponding growth stages of the crop. She has presented her first findings at the regional Aquaphotomics Conference in Japan, that took place on 23-24th November in Yunosato, and she is currently working on her first paper on this topic. Together with the Aquaphotomics team and planned research collaborations with Professor Fujitake’s team from the Department of Agrobioscience in Kobe University, their future research will be exploring Aquaphotomics as a novel and holistic approach for investigating soil properties and functions. Lasha san’s hope for the future is that, at the end of this research, she will be able to create soil aquaphotome.

Alexandra Petrova – Aquaphotomics for Medicine and Healthcare

The latest and youngest addition to our Aquaphotomics family is Alexandra Petrova. In Japan, we call her Ale san, which sometimes can be heard as Ari san, meaning Miss Ant (so cute! kawaii ◕‿◕✿).

Ale san is a graduate of the University College of London (UCL), Biochemical Engineering Department and she came to Japan specifically to learn Aquaphotomics and help with applications in medical realm. She is also a keen traveler and her travels also led her to Peru where she got very interested in music and plants and alternative healing modalities. If you met Ale san in Japan, then it is most certain, whoever you are, and wherever you are, she will sooner or later insist on playing traditional Andean ceremonial flute, especially and specifically for you. We asked Alexandra to say something about her and Japan, of her impressions so far and her hopes and dreams for the future. So, here it is.

~ Ari chan in her own words ~

“I have been here for few months now, in Japan, the laboratory of Aquaphotomics, and the horizons are opening for me like nothing I could ever imagine. I am from Bulgaria, so the challenges of living abroad are ever present and ever gifting. Here, the Aquaphotomics family have made this big transition and paramount jump of my life to end with the smoothest possible landing. The laboratory takes part in multidisciplinary projects and has connections with one of the most intriguing scientists on our planet today. This has given me the opportunity to learn about various fields while working on the topics that inspire me the most. In Bulgaria, I lastly worked with IVF and fungal based medicinal supplements. Ultimately, I wish to connect these fields with my knowledge gained here, and the possibilities in medical healthcare. I think many new possibilities can be created with aquaphotomics, such as non-invasive biomonitoring and real-time, quantifiable diagnostics.

My first project was to learn and apply Aquaphotomics and Multivariate spectral analysis to measure and understand the effect of a Music Based Intervention (MBI). MBI has been used in medicine for thousands of years and is now regaining interest from numerous healthcare practitioners and researchers across the globe. I am currently preparing my first paper based on these results, and I was happy to recently present a poster and oral talk during Japanese Aquaphotomics conference held in Yunosato, Hashimoto. I am also now working on analyzing near infrared spectra of people before and after meditation-based psychotherapy. I am very grateful to be part of the Aquaphotomics family and cannot wait to see what, where and who else this journey will unfold for me.”