Meet our researchers

Academic staff at the Department of Biology

Learn more about our academic staff and their research. For additional information and contact details, please follow the link below each description.

How do ecosystems work, and why is biodiversity important for ecosystem functioning? Ecosystems are characterized by numerous players (species, individuals) interacting in complex ways (ecological interaction networks). Such interactions are the basis for ecosystem processes (nutrient cycling, biomass production, etc.) and ultimately for the benefits of nature to humans.

Learn more about the Blüthgen Lab

Picture: Karsten Mody
Picture: modified from Löb et al., Nat. Comm.7: 11207

Our group is interested in elucidating how the mammalian (epi)genome is maintained throughout cell divisions and how the epigenetic information is translated into spatial chromatin structure and activity during differentiation, reprogramming and disease. We make use of a variety of biochemical, molecular and cell biological methods with particular emphasis on advanced live-cell and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy. In the course of our work, we develop new approaches to deliver macromolecules to living cells and establish tools including nanobodies to visualize subcellular structures and cell cycle progression in real time.

Learn more about the Cardoso Lab

The cerebral cortex is composed of a multitude of different areas which are interconnected by a dense network feedforward and feedback connections which interact during information processing. Our research focusses on the examination of the spatio-temporal dynamics of these interactions in order to better understand the neuronal basis of the unique performance of the mammalian brain. Using the visual system as a model, we apply multi-site multi-electrode electrophysiological recordings, optical imaging of intrinsic signals and voltage sensitive dye imaging to visualize neuronal processes in different parts of the visual cortex system.

Learn more about the Galuske Lab

Picture: Ralf Galuske
Picture: H.U. Göringer

Central research topic of the laboratory is the biological chemistry of ribonucleic acid molecules (RNA) involved in post-transcriptional gene regulatory processes. Our study object is the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei. Trypanosomes are the causative agent of African sleeping sickness, a neglected tropical disease, for which no vaccination and no effective therapeutics exist.

Learn more about the Göringer Lab

The Hamacher group is focused on the mathematical and statistical modeling of complex systems, the development of algorithms, and (secure) data science.

Learn more about the Hamacher Lab

Picture: William Hook (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Our group is primarily interested in plant-animal interactions particularly the evolution of pollination systems and their chemical ecology. In addition our lab investigates plant biodiversity in response to different environmental and anthropogenic factors.

Learn more about the Jürgens Lab

Picture: Andreas Jürgens

Microbial biotechnology offers novel solutions for some of the problems our society faces today, such as depletion of resources, pollution and lack of sustainability. Our central research theme is the creation of microbial cell factories helping us to tackle these challenges.

Learn more about the Kabisch Lab

Picture: Johannes Kabisch

One scientific focus is membrane transport processes mediated by aquaporins and the function of these proteins in plant physiology. The other is the interaction of parasitic plants with their hosts. Due to the wide assortment of disciplines ranging from molecular characterization of proteins and genes to functional analysis in nature and employment of basic knowledge in technical applications, the techniques used in the Kaldenhoff laboratory and those being accessible from cooperation is quite divers and include molecular biology, microscopy, biophysics and physiological techniques.

Learn more about the Kaldenhoff Lab

Picture: Katrin Binner

The research in the Laube Lab focuses on the structure and function of biological sensors involved in synaptic transmission, neuronal development and cancer progression by combining biochemical, genetic, behavioral and electrophysiological methods. The knowledge about structural constraints of biological sensors will allow the construction of electrical BioSensors in biomimetic nanopores.

Learn more about the Laube Lab

Picture: Jan Michael Hosan

Our laboratory investigates the repair of DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), the most toxic lesions endangering cellular viability. We are interested in dissecting DSB repair mechanisms and uncovering novel repair factors, providing basis to understand the pathogenesis of diseases such as cancer and the development of novel radio- and chemo-therapeutic strategies.

Learn more about the Löbrich Lab

Picture: Markus Löbrich

Mammalian cells are constantly challenged with different forms of stress that originate from both the physical environment and intrinsic biological processes. We investigate how cells sense and counteract these stresses using a systems biology approach based on quantitative experiments in living cells, computer-aided data analyses and mathematical modelling.

Learn more about the Loewer Lab

Picture: Alexander Loewer

How can we precisely perturb and control molecular processes in living eukaryotic cells? Our lab approaches this question from a synthetic biology and protein engineering perspective. We juxtapose various methods, namely optogenetics, CRISPR, viral vectors and computation and develop molecular tools to study genome regulation and direct cell function.

Learn more about the Niopek Lab

Picture: Dominik Niopek

With our research on pediatric brain diseases – neurodevelopmental disorders and brain tumors – we aim to contribute to a better understanding of disease mechanisms and to the translation of this knowledge into clinical applications. To achieve these goals, we perform research on human stem cell-based disease models and on mouse models.

Learn more about the Nuber Lab

Picture: Ulrike A. Nuber

Research focus is the formation of gas vesicles in the halophilic archaeon Halobacterium salinarum. Major constituent is GvpA forming ribs that are stabilized by GvpC attached to the outer surface. Ten accessory Gvp proteins are involved in the initiation of gas vesicle formation that are characterized in further detail.

Learn more about the Pfeifer Lab

Picture: Felicitas Pfeifer

Our laboratory studies microbially catalysed reactions of the biogeochemical nitrogen and sulfur cycles at the cellular and subcellular levels. We are mainly interested in the physiology and bioenergetics of anaerobic/ microaerobic bacteria and focus on the enzymology of anaerobic respiration and the functional architecture of corresponding electron transport chains.

Learn more about the Simon Lab

Picture: Jörg Simon

Our research group takes a protein-centric approach to synthetic biology as we devise systematic approaches to engineer artificial sensory and transport functions. Strategically, we address both fundamental research questions and develop applications for industrial biotechnology and biomedicine. We tackle these questions through a combination of molecular-genetic, biochemical and biophysical methods.

Learn more about the Stein Lab

Picture: Katrin Binner

We explore regulatory RNAs in all of their diverse forms and shapes. Our research interests include natural RNAs found in bacteria and other model organisms as well as the design of aptamers and synthetic riboswitches. Our goal is to fully understand these regulatory elements in their structure, function and range of applications.

Learn more about the Suess Lab

Picture: Leon Kraus

We try to understand basic structure/function correlates, which are relevant in all K+ channel proteins from small and primitive to large and highly evolved channels.

Learn more about the Thiel Lab

Picture: Ferenc Horvath

Today, the synthesis of chromosomes becomes feasible but construction rules of natural chromosomes are not fully understood. We study bacterial chromosome biology using a variety of methods with emphasis on synthetic biology approaches. We want to understand chromosome biology to build synthetic chromosomes and build synthetic chromosomes to understand chromosome biology.

Learn more about the Waldminghaus Lab

Picture: Lizah van der Aart

The core of our research is to understand the metabolic capacity of plants to build complex chemical structures, so-called specialized metabolites. With that knowledge we aim to engineer plants to produce a new set of metabolites, especially those which can serve as pharmaceuticals.

Learn more about the Warzecha Lab

Picture: Heribert Warzecha
Picture: Jan Michael Hosan

Technology meets life sciences

The strengths of the Department of Biology are in technology-driven biological research and education including cell molecular biology, microbiology, ecology, neurosciences and computational biology.

Our research covers a broad spectrum of questions in arthropod evolutionary ecology. Starting from the evolution and diversification of reproductive systems (how can “asexuals” exist in the long-term?), over chemical communication (chemical defense), the 3D functional morphology of structures involved in species interactions, to the understanding of food webs.

Learn more about the Heethoff Lab

Picture: Gregor Schuster

The biochemistry of sulfur-oxidizing and reducing enzymes is the main research focus with sulfur oxygenases as the most successful models, trying to understand how they work. Since sulfur metabolism is linked to metal recovery, we also study precious metal bioleaching from mining and electronic waste with cyanide-producing bacteria.

Learn more about the Kletzin Lab

Picture: Arnulf Kletzin

Small extracellular vesicles (exosomes) are key players in intercellular communication. They trigger various biological processes by the transfer of cellular components such as microRNAs (miRs). Our research aims to identify novel miR functionalities in various diseases and to investigate their role in intercellular communication. We transfer our findings into new treatment strategies.

Learn more about the Saul Lab

Picture: Meike Saul

Our focus of research is the identification and in-depth characterization of novel posttranscriptional regulation events in the context of stress and disease. In particular, we study effect of mRNA structures and their recognition by RNA-binding proteins (RBPs).

Learn more about the Weigand Lab

Picture: Katrin Binner

Scientific exchange and collaboration

The campus hosts twenty senior labs as well as four junior and independent labs. Researchers collaborate widely and successfully with both national and international research institutions and a range of industry partners.

Institute for Biological Control

Federal Research Center for Cultivated Plants, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI)

Insect viruses are economically important microbial control agents of insect pests in horticulture, agriculture and forestry. Our work focuses on research on and different technology platforms for the identification and characterization of viral insect pathogens and the interaction with their insect hosts. We perform genome characterization, genomics and transcriptomics, identification of molecular factors involved in virulence, research on molecular host-virus-interaction, and development of methods for testing the activity of insect viruses in the laboratory, greenhouse and field.

Learn more about JKI and Johannes Jehle

Picture: P. Ratke
Picture: François-Xavier Lehr
Published in: ACS Synth. Biol. 2019, 8, 2163−2173

Our group contributes computational methodology to overcome the trial-and-error approach and to ultimately turn synthetic circuit design into a rational bottom-up process that heavily relies on computational analysis before any actual biomolecular implementation is considered. In order to achieve this goal, we develop biophysical and statistical models of biomolecular contexts, devise new statistical inference (calibration) methods that can deliver accurate characterization of circuits by making use of cutting-edge single-cell experimental data, experimentally build transcriptional and translational circuits in vivo and in cell-free systems in order to validate and bring to life the above theoretical investigations.

visit the Bioinspired Communication Systems Lab webpage

Using various light-based imaging techniques such as macro high-speed videography, confocal or super-resolution microscopy, we investigate a variety of dynamic processes such as protein diffusion in plasma membranes of 3D cultured cells or fluid transport in paper. Quantitative and automated image analysis, including deep learning, is also an essential part of our work.

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Picture: Tobias Meckel

Institute for plant protection in fruit crops and viticulture, Julius Kühn Institute (JKI) Dossenheim

We investigate ecological interactions between crops and pests, especially the chemically mediated communication between cultural plants, microorganisms and herbivorous animals (from insects to elephants). The results are used for targeted manipulations in the context of sustainable control of pest organisms. We develop novel applications for pest monitoring, mass trapping and push-and-pull strategies using pheromones and allelochemicals.

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Picture: Jürgen Gross
Volatile collection in an apple orchard at JKI Dossenheim with a self-developed 6-channel headspace-sampling device

Using molecular genetics, genomics, microbiomics, phylogenetics and molecular diagnostics approaches we investigate fungal and bacterial pathogens and symbionts of insects with respect to both fundamental research and microbial control applications.