149 Projects, page 1 of 30
I will use my MSCA-IF in the Stukenbrock Lab to dissect the molecular interactions between the fungal pathogen, Zymoseptoria tritici, and its host plant, wheat. Despite being the most devastating fungal wheat disease in Europe, little is known about the molecular mechanisms used by Z. tritici to cause disease. I propose to undertake a project that will use my expertise in molecular biology, combined with the Stukenbrock Lab's expertise in fungal genomics and evolution, to build a better understanding of how Z. tritici is able to evade host immune defences in order to grow, develop and, ultimately, induce disease symptoms. Plant pathogens use secreted proteins, described as effectors, to suppress host defences and/or alter host metabolism. However, few effectors from Z. tritici have been characterised. I aim to identify effectors that are used by Z. tritici to suppress wheat immune systems. To select effector candidates, I will use the Stukenbrock Lab's Zymoseptoria genomic resources to compare the variation in effector complements among Z. tritici and its closely related sister species. Z. tritici can infect wheat and not wild grass species. Inversely, Z. tritici's sister species infect wild grasses, but cannot infect wheat. Therefore, I hypothesise that effectors shared among all of these species are candidates as suppressors of conserved plant immune systems, whereas, effectors unique to Z. tritici, and conserved among all isolates of this fungus, are likely involved in host specialisation. I will screen the former set of effector candidates for their ability to suppress BAK1-dependent immune responses (an immune pathway conserved among a divergent range of plant species). I will knock-out the genes encoding the latter set of effectors, and will screen whether the virulence of the resulting mutants is reduced. Combined, these two approaches will help assign functions to more Z. tritici effectors and, thereby, develop new insights into this devastating disease.
A strain-stiffening material is a material that increases its stiffness in response to deformation. This behaviour is frequently found in nature to protect systems from destruction. For example, in cells strain-stiffening occurs by the cross-linking of cytoskeletal fibers upon external forces. Within the ERC project CELLINSPIRED we have developed a material where we mimic this biological behavior in a novel type of artificial strain-stiffening material, where comb-like structures touch each other, adhere, and thus increase the stiffness of the total material as a reaction to external shear force. It is very flexible in the choice of stiffness range and in the direction of strain-stiffening, and is easy to produce in a large variety of length scales (µm to cm) as well as in large quantities (patent application DE 10 2016 107 480.2, WO 2017/182024 A1, statuts “Notice of Intention to Grant”). This is of high interest in the field of orthotics, as the strain-stiffening protection mechanism is in our approach intrinsically located in the material and therefore does not require further chemical reagents. The work proposed here has the goal to validate our novel strain-stiffening material for the field of orthotics. The expected outcome of our project is to receive a prototype that (1) has well-defined strain-stiffening properties , (2) can be fabricated in different levels of complexity, (3) can easily be integrated into orthotic systems, and (4) can be fabricated using high-throughput processes. Our final goal is to license the patent to a company.
The soil of the earth is the basis of our life. Efficient use of soil is needed for feeding the growing population. Contaminated soil needs to be regenerated to protect the quality of drinking water and more generally the ecosystem. Here, we propose a highly miniaturized sensor system for monitoring nitrate, ammonium, and phosphate based on integration of a lab-on-a-chip microfluidic cartridge with an optoelectronic detection unit. The optoelectronic detection chip employs the directional organic light emitting diode (OLED) we developed within the ERC PoC project BEAMOLED. This kind of OLED allows for direct integration of the optoelectronic chip with the microfluidic cartridge providing a new level of miniaturization of the optical readout measurement system. We propose the use of colorimetric assays based on starting with standard assays and improving performance using nanozyme catalysis. A hydrophilic ceramic as inlet to a microfluidic channel is proposed for intake of soil solution. Reagents as well as the waste are stored in the sensor system. We target a system size of 3 cm x 3 cm x 5 cm for maintenance-free operation in the soil for a duration of one year for in-situ monitoring of 100 data points per nutrient. In a soil-science study the soil-solution extraction into the microfluidic will be investigated for soils with a wide range of pore size distributions, bulk densities, pore-space connectivity, and soil water content to validate the extraction approach scientifically. Pot and field tests in agriculture and soil remediation are planned for validation in application-relevant environments of two potential markets and to develop market readiness. Our aim is to start a spin-off company after completion of this project. By the parallel development of the technology and business side with an interdisciplinary team from electrical engineering, chemical engineering, soil science, and economics/entrepreneurship an iterative adjustment process is achieved.
The project ‘MinErVa: Mid-Pleistocene Environments of the lower Vaal River’ seeks a multidisciplinary perspective on the effects of environmental change on human evolution by examining the palaeoenvironmental context of the first anatomically modern humans in the arid interior of southern Africa (c. 300-100ka). The MinErVa project is focused around the archaeological site of Pniel, an Early Middle Stone Age open-air site on the Vaal River that I have been excavating for two seasons since 2017. The site is located in an area with fossil evidence for early human evolution, however, there is a lack of terrestrial proxy records to reconstruct climate and environment during this time period. Specifically, the project will test the hypothesis that the local environment included phases of persistent wetness and significant biome shifts, caused by increased winter rainfall, though carbon and oxygen stable isotope analysis on herbivore teeth. Furthermore, MinErVa will apply innovative carbon and hydrogen stable isotope analysis on leaf wax n-alkanes in sediment to reconstruct vegetation and palaeohydrology. In a synthesis with isotopic, zooarchaeological, geomorphological, phytolith and lithic data sets recovered from my ongoing excavations, this project will explore how the first Homo sapiens were adapting to their environment. The project offers scope for testing the application of stable isotope analysis of leaf wax isotopes in sediment for the first time in a terrestrial context of this antiquity on South Africa and will therefore offer unique training to the applicant in a novel method which can has the scope to establish new proxy records in a region where there is a distinct lack of them.
This project will provide a comprehensive analysis of the decorative principles employed between the late Republic and the end of the early Imperial period, i.e. the 2nd century BC and the end of the 1st century AD. It will be the first research programme to move away from analyses of single decorative elements in isolation and to focus on their correlation and interaction. This comprehensive approach will be adopted for varying spatial contexts such as houses, sanctuaries and main streets, enabling analyses of the changes decorative principles underwent according to spatial and functional contexts. Within this framework, the project will address four core research questions: (1) How can the interplay of different decorative elements be analysed for architecturally closed and open urban spaces? A key question here is how forms of decor interact on a formal level, as well as in terms of content and meaning, in order to create specific atmospheres. (2) What methods allow a scientific assessment of the interplay between decor and the use of space? (3) Is there a social significance to decorative principles? Do specific social groups or specific spatial contexts favour or exclusively employ specific forms of decor? (4) How can decorative ensembles be identified as artistic expressions typical for certain periods? This approach will enable analyses of forms of decor and their dependencies on respective functional contexts in spatial, chronological and social terms. The project is a pilot project for advancing new methods in substantial analyses of decorated spaces. At the same time, it provides a fundamental advancement of our understanding of the visual culture from the late Republic to the early Roman Empire.