‘I too only started blossoming when I saw the light’

On that sunny spring day in February, we were all aware of the revitalizing power of light.

Faline Plantenga experienced this for herself when she was writing her thesis – and discovered that people are sometimes just like potatoes.

Text Juliette Berkhout

Faline Plantenga graduated on 12 February with a PhD on the role of light in tuber formation and flowering in potatoes.

Proposition: Both plants and humans need enough light to blossom

‘The more the light, the earlier the blossom: that was a conclusion from my PhD research on tuber formation and flowering in potatoes. I noticed something similar in myself, sitting at my desk. I worked with a lot of students in Radix. To begin with, I was sitting on the courtyard side, the dark side. We had all been given an orchid, which stood on our desks. But our orchids wouldn’t flower, while those of others elsewhere in the building did.

When I started writing to finish off my PhD, I moved to the sunny side of the building. As soon as my orchid arrived there with me, it started to flower beautifully. And that was not all: the sunlight affected how I worked myself. I could – and can – concentrate better in a well-lit environment. I’m obviously not cut out for the night shift!

So light makes people blossom. Of course, that has already been proven on several fronts, and has been applied, as in light therapy for winter depression. You can see it again now with those extremely early spring days in February: everyone is cheerful and full of new energy.

As a person, you also start flourishing if you see the light in a figurative sense: if you’re doing what you enjoy. I only started blossoming after my secondary school years, which was a rather socially awkward period in which I started to live independently and study subjects that interested me. Now I have a new job in a WUR research station in Bleiswijk, where I’m still doing research on plants and light. Research that suits me, and that may well lead to new things. So I’ll go on flowering for a long time, I hope.’

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