University of Konstanz, Germany 1996
Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry
Molecular Environmental Microbiology; Bioremediation
My primary research interests are directed towards understanding the interactions and interrelations between microorganisms and their environment. I am interested in studying microbial diversity and activities in nature, particularly with respect to biogeochemical processes involved in the cycling of carbon compounds, nutrients, gases, metals, and organic pollutants. My research interests are also aimed at an understanding of the influence of environmental factors on the bacterial metabolism. One of my goals is to contribute to an understanding of the dynamics of the ecological, physiological and genetic aspects of the microbial processes which are relevant to bioremediation of pollutants in marine and terrestrial environments.
The research in my lab focuses on the physiology, molecular genetics, and ecology of anaerobic prokaryotes, which are involved in metal/uranium reduction and aromatic hydrocarbon degradation in terrestrial and marine environments. We are attempting to identify genes that can be used to track the degradative activity and metabolic state of these microbes in contaminated environments. Our recent research project is directed towards providing a mechanistic understanding of the function of subsurface microbial communities with a high bioremediation potential in petroleum- or uranium-contaminated sediments. In particular, we are studying on the metabolic activity and distribution of predominant microbial groups such as dissimilatory Fe(III)-reducing (FRP) and sulfate-reducing (SRP), and methanogenic prokaryotes (MGP) that oxidize petroleum hydrocarbons or catalyze radionuclide immobilization in situ. We have demonstrated the utility of functional gene targets as molecular proxies for the metabolically-active SRP, FeRP, and MGP, and led to an understanding of the metabolically-active prokaryotes participating in the corresponding electron transport pathways. Using a combination of genomics and molecular genetics, we are also studying a process of anaerobic oxidation of aromatic hydrocarbons coupled to the reduction of sulfate, nitrate or iron, in a strict anaerobic aromatic-oxidizing iron-reducing and sulfate-reducing Deltaproteobacteria species. Our research objectives include: Characterizing these microbes and its activities, elucidating mechanisms of metabolic adaptation to aromatic compounds using molecular techniques, and understanding biogeochemical and physiological characteristics which affect activity of anaerobic aromatic-degrading microbes.