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Dr. Volha Chukhutsina

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Dr. Volha Chukhutsina studies photosynthesis photoregulation: from single proteins to whole organisms.


Volha Chukhutsina is a biophysicist with a strong expertise in optical spectroscopy, photosynthesis, and structural biology. She is fascinated by the protein structures and broad variety of photoadaptation strategies you can find in photosynthesis upon abiotic changes. After obtaining an MSc degree in physics from the Belarusian State University, Minsk, Volha moved to The Netherlands to pursue a PhD in biophysics. As a PhD student, she participated in the FP7 Marie Curie network “HARVEST”, and worked at the Laboratory of Biophysics, Wageningen University. Her focus was with describing photoprotection and photoadaptation strategies of marine algae and cyanobacteria in vivo: for that “ultrafast” time-resolved spectroscopy was used that allowed to follow these processes on the picosecond timescale. During her first postdoc in the group of Prof. Roberta Croce, she has built a unique spectroscopic setup capable of non-invasive picosecond spectroscopy of photosynthetic non-fluid samples with complicated morphology. This setup gave an opportunity to study primary photosynthesis kinetics in intact leaves in artifact-free conditions for the first time. As a next step in her research career she moved into the field of structural biology, molecular biology and X-ray (conventional and serial) crystallography. For that she was awarded an EMBO Long-Term and Marie Curie Individual Fellowships to work with Prof. Jasper van Thor from February 2018 till October 2020. There she established her research line, namely studying OCP light activation using serial crystallography and advanced spectroscopic methods. From November 2020 Volha started her Assistant Professor position in VU Amsterdam in the department of Physics and Astronomy. Her research line is part of Biophysics of Photosynthesis research domain.

Research description

We describe the biodiversity of photosynthetic responses to light/cold stress or other abiotic changes.  The responses are studied on the whole organism level as well as on the level of single proteins or complexes. To resolve the phenomena a combined approach including time-resolved spectroscopy, conventional structural biology, molecular biology and spectroscopic techniques are used with a key focus on revolutionary serial X-ray crystallography. The field of serial crystallography is currently under rise, revolutionizing various research fields of biology, from resolving the first steps of human vision (Kang et al, Science, 2015) to the origin of photoswitching of various photosensitive proteins used in imaging (Tenboer, Science, 2014; Coquelle, Nat Chemistry, 2018). Serial crystallography is a proven technique to unravel the molecular dynamics during protein activation: instead of taking a static image of a protein, it collects snapshots of the protein during structural changes, therefore creating a movie of the protein movement.

Selected publications (2019-2022)

  • Chukhutsina, V.U., Baxter, J.M., Fadini, A. et al. Light activation of Orange Carotenoid Protein reveals bicycle-pedal single-bond isomerization. Nat Commun 13, 6420 (2022).
  • Hutchison, C.D.M., Parker, S., Chukhutsina, V. et al. Open hardware microsecond dispersive transient absorption spectrometer for linear optical response. Photochem Photobiol Sci 21, 23–35 (2022).

For the complete list see: Dr. Volha Chukhutsina Google Scholar

Meet Dr. Volha Chukhutsina



Photosynthesis – Bachelor course for the degree in physics

Photosynthesis and Energy Ph&A Master course 

Guest lectures

  • Advanced Biophysics – Ph&A Master course
  • Structural Biology course Bachelor course FAR program
  • Biosolar Cells- SBI Master course