Jonathan Asmund Arnesen, Fulbright 2016/2017

Producing beneficial plant substances

My research at Michigan State University focused on producing beneficial plant substances in a more sustainable way. Plant substances such as Forskolin can be used for heart medicine, and Sclareol is used in the perfume industry. Although these substances are found in nature, it is often difficult and very expensive to manufacture them. Some plants require special cultivation conditions, and only produce the active substance in very small amounts. This means that the substance becomes very expensive to purify, and therefore limited to the people who need it. In order to solve this problem, I tried to get another and more useful plant to produce these substances – Fruitfully!

In my research project, I succeeded in producing several plant substances such as 13R-ent-manoyl oxide, 13R-manoyl oxide (which is a precursor to Forskolin), 13S-manoyl oxide, Manol and Sclareol. I also developed new molecular biological tools that could make moss even better at creating active substances, and I worked with symbiotic systems of microorganisms and plants, where both parties became stronger by the collaboration.

Michigan State University

Number of students



MSU ranks number 35 among public universities and number 85 overall in U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges 2019.


MSU is well known for its academic programs in education and agriculture.

Thanks to this award, it was possible for me to go to Michigan in the United States and focus on my research project with Dr. Bjoern Hamberger. The stay enabled by Fulbright resulted in great and lifelong lessons – both professionally and personally.

Jonathan, Michigan state University, Fulbright Denmark

My Fulbright experience

Part of the Fulbright experience that I particularly enjoyed was the seminars held at various universities in the U.S. I even attended the seminar “Global Health Innovation” that was held at Georgia State University in Atlanta. It was incredibly inspiring to meet other Fulbrighters from all over the world in a large gathering of intelligent, open, and empathic people who were all interested in making the world a better (and healthier) place. The seminar on global public health and how this could be improved was led by competent and dedicated faculty members of the GSU; we even met some of the people who made their mark on global public health, such as Bill Foege, who helped eradicate smallpox disease on a global scale. The seminar was an eye-opener as I learned about other people’s lives that were very different from my own, the problems they struggled with, and that people across cultures might solve these problems in collaboration.

Traveling to another continent may seem confusing and overwhelming, but Fulbright made sure I always knew which documents I needed and how to obtain them. The Fulbright Denmark team was always ready with help and advice – I am very grateful for the help I got!

Lessons learned

Researching beneficial plant substances and in general conducting research in the U.S. has taught me a lot on both a professional and personal level. I hope that future Fulbright students will have the same opportunity to experience a foreign society, expand their worldview and increase their own self-understanding as I did myself – To experience a different way of life, can both make you appreciate your own society, as well as be inspired to improve it.