Two Wageningen science talents go to top foreign institutions

Published on
April 14, 2020

Two young researchers at Wageningen University & Research can do their research at foreign research institutes thanks to a Rubicon grant from NWO. The Rubicon programme gives young, highly promising researchers the opportunity to gain international research experience. The two researchers from WUR are Ioannis Mougiakos and Margo Smit.

Dr Ioannis Mougiakos - Turning DNA parasites into powerful DNA editors.

He will visit in Germany the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research, Würzburg during 24 months.

Transposons are DNA parasites that “jump” from one position in a genome to another. The researcher will attempt to turn a recently discovered type of transposon into a revolutionary DNA-editing tool, and use this to convert bacteria into sustainable chemical factories. Ioannis Mougiakos worked at the Microbiology group at Wageningen University & Research.

Dr Margo E. Smit - Speechless: how plants produce stomatas

She will visit the United States of America, Stanford University, Department of Biology for 24 months.

Margo Smit working in the greenhouse at Stanford University (Credit: Margo Smit).
Margo Smit working in the greenhouse at Stanford University (Credit: Margo Smit).

Plants make stomas to breathe. Producing a stomata is a complex process that involves a considerable genetic network. The researcher will examine how a single protein in that network is necessary for several steps in the development. Margo Smit did her PhD at the Laboratory of Biochemistry, led by prof. Dolf Weijers. She started as an postdoc at Stanford University after finishing her PhD in Wageningen.


With a Rubicon grant researchers can spend up to 24 months doing research at a foreign institution. For many researchers, experience abroad is an important step in their career. Thanks to the Rubicon grant these young researchers can do their research at top institutions such as Harvard and Helmholtz. The majority of the researchers will go abroad for a period of 24 months. On the national level, out of 74 researchers who submitted a proposal for a Rubicon grant, a total of 18 researchers (24.3%) were selected.

Corona restrictions

NWO is complying with the measures announced by the Dutch government to tackle the coronavirus. NWO will ensure that its activities do not stop. The current circumstances require appropriate measures. This means that the researchers awarded Rubicon funding in this round will only start their research when the situation is safe for them.