New Center for Microbial Research in Marburg

The "Microcosm Earth Center" addresses current issues of environmental and climate microbiology

September 16, 2022

The Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology and Philipps University in Marburg opened the newly founded "Microcosm Earth Center" on Friday, September 16, 2022 on the Campus Lahnberge. Numerous guests of honor, including Angela Dorn, Hessen`s Minister for Science and the Arts, expressed their congratulations. The project will initially run for seven years and is supported by the state of Hesse with 6.8 million euros.

Microorganisms and the global climate are inseparably intertwined. Thus, a precise understanding of the networks of microbial matter - from the smallest to the global scales - is an important key to solving some of the most pressing questions of our time. 

The new research center (Microcosm Earth Center, MEC), is realized with the support of the State of Hesse, the Hessian Ministry of Science and the Arts (HMWK) and the Max Planck Society on the Marburg Lahnberge. The joint project of the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology (MPI-TM) and the Philipps University of Marburg (UMR) is dedicated to the highly topical and wide-ranging subject area of environmental and climate microbiology.

On September 16, Prof. Dr. Tobias Erb, director at the MPI and co-initiator of the project, and the president of the UMR, Prof. Dr. Thomas Nauss, welcomed about 50 invited guests of honor from politics, academia, the board of trustees, industry and science to the opening ceremony in the lecture hall of the Max Planck Institute. This was followed by speeches by Minister Angela Dorn and Dr. Michael Kopatz, City Councillor of the University City of Marburg.

"The research field of microbiology is developing rapidly and is a key scientific field of the 21st century for environment, climate and health. With the Microcosm Earth Center, we are developing new topics and talents between the Max Planck Society and Philipps University Marburg, which we need for the scientific and economic development of the location, but also in preparation of the next Excellence Initiative," said Science Minister Angela Dorn. "A decisive key to this is the early recruitment of international researchers - especially women. I am pleased that we as the state of Hesse have been able to contribute actively to the establishment of the Microcosm Earth Center; it emerged from the Center for Synthetic Microbiology (SYNMIKRO) - formerly funded by our research funding program LOEWE, and furthermore we are supporting the center with 6.8 million euros. I wish the researchers every success in their cutting-edge work!"

Prof. Dr. Paul Schulze-Lefert from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne presented a lecture on how plants are protected by their microbiomes. After that, the first members of the center provided some exciting insights into their research. 

The center will comprise a total of three research groups. At the MEC, Dr. Judith Klatt analyzes microbial processes in a wide range of environments such as contaminated soils, hydrothermal vents or lakes. In her work, she complements online measurements directly in the environment with classical biochemical research. Dr. Julia Kurth also heads a research group at the MEC: Among other things, she explores how recently discovered methane-forming microbes contribute to the global balance of this important greenhouse gas. The research groups are complemented by six " Fellows", young scientists from existing groups at the UMR and the MPI-TM. They will receive funding for a period of six months for the further development of their projects.

In this context, interdisciplinary work is particularly important, as Porf. Dr. Thomas Nauss emphazises: "For many years now, Philipps University and the MPI have been cooperating very successfully with each other at the Lahnberge Campus, as can be seen above all in the SYNMIKRO center. In the Microcosm Earth Center, young scientists are given the opportunity to conduct innovative research. It thus strengthens the interdisciplinarity of Marburg's biosciences and intensifies the cooperation between the partners involved."

The researchers will have access to the infrastructure of both institutions, including proteomics, metabolomics, high performance microscopy, DNA synthesis & sequencing, robotics, structural biology, cryo-EM, and greenhouses.

Prof. Dr. Tobias Erb, director at the Max Planck Institute and spokesperson of the center, says: "The precise understanding and targeted use of microorganisms will play a key role in sustainable agricultural, environmental, climate and health management. We are pleased to welcome outstanding scientists. They are conducting research across the boundaries of traditional disciplines, thus opening new paths in the fields of environmental and climate microbiology."


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