There is a new face in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences!

Aart Verhoef, Ph.D., has joined us as an assistant professor of biophotonics, based in College Station.

Aart Verhoef has joined the Texas A&M University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences faculty.

A native of Holland, Verhoef earned his Master of Science in Physics from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and his Ph.D. in Physics from Ludwig Maximilians Universität (LMU) Munich.

While his degrees were in physics, Verhoef also did considerable work on laser development. When he looked for real world applications for lasers, he found biophotonics.

“Biophotonics is basically the study of biology with controlled light,” Verhoef explained. “Lasers are controlled light.”

For the past four years Verhoef has worked as an Invited Researcher at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) Photonics Institute, where he worked on nonlinear optical imaging development (lasers) for use in neuroscience.

Here at Texas A&M, Verhoef will be using those lasers to help advance agriculture.

“I plan to use laser techniques such as Raman spectroscopy to detect plant diseases and to study plant characteristics involved with carbon sequestration in the roots,” Verhoef said.

He explained that part of his research will include studying the plants in vivo at the molecular level to determine if there are ways to manipulate the plants into storing carbon for longer periods of time after the plant dies, rather than releasing it as carbon dioxide.

Verhoef also hopes to continue his neuroscience research on fruit flies.

“I helped develop a method by which we can do laser experiments under the microscope with the lights on,” he said. “This makes it much more relevant when studying the flies, since they are diurnal creatures.”

Vorhoef’s wife, Alma Fernandez Gonzalez, will also be joining the department in the near future, working both with biophotonics and in Marlan Scully’s lab in the Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering.