Jena School for Microbial Communication awards talented master students with Carl Zeiss Foundation PhD Fellowships
The Jena School for Microbial Communication (JSMC) for the first time awarded doctoral fellowships for exceptionally talented master students of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena (FSU). Candidates had to be top of their class and nominated by a faculty member to jointly submit a research proposal that aligns with the mission of the research cluster of excellence “Balance of the Microverse”. The cluster seeks to understand the dynamic balance of microbial communities in all kinds of different habitats to develop technologies that create beneficial impact on medicine, agriculture and environmental sustainability. Reviewed by a panel of national and international experts, Kerstin Unger and Jonathan Hammer were both awarded with a scholarship of three and a half years that includes budgets for laboratory expenses, conference visits and professional trainings at a total amount of 250.000 euros each.
Kerstin Unger will investigate why, out of the thousands of beneficial microbes that live on plant leaves, a smaller number of potentially harmful ones are often present as part of a neutral microbial community without causing an infection. “By investigating the microbial communities on plant leaves in interplay with the plant’s defence strategies, our research aims to make an important contribution to preventing pests that can lead to crop losses with associated economic cost”, says Unger. The project will be carried out at the FSU Institute of Microbiology under the supervision of Dr. Matt Agler and Prof. Erika Kothe and in collaboration with Prof. Jonathan Gershenzon at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.
Jonathan Hammer has chosen to investigate microbial interactions that influence the balance of large plankton communities in the oceans. In particular, he wants to elucidate thus far uncharted interactions between bacteria and algae during algal blooms. He explains, “this is important to accurately include the contribution of microbial CO2 capture and emission into models to help mitigate the effects of climate change. In addition, molecules that mediate these interactions are a potential source of novel bioactive compounds for drug development against infectious diseases”. The work will be supervised by Prof. Christian Jogler, Dr. Torsten Schubert and Dr. Muriel van Teeseling at the FSU Institute of Microbiology.
As of 2019, the JSMC is part of the Alliance of Graduate Schools “Life in Focus” that aims to align the doctoral education in the Life and Optical Sciences with the funding of the Carl Zeiss Foundation, which also provided the funds for these doctoral fellowships. The JSMC is an Excellence Graduate School with a broad network of scientists from a variety of natural and life sciences disciplines. The school provides the graduate and post-graduate training for the Excellence Cluster Balance of the Microverse.