Keynote speakers Microbiology Centennial Symposium

Keynote speakers

Keynote speakers of this symposium are Jan Roelof van der Meer, Mark van Loosdrecht, Hauke Harms, Bernhard Schink, Thijs Ettema, Mike Jetten, Hauke Smidt, Alfons Stams, John van der Oost, Alexander Zehnder, Diana Sousa, Stan Brouns, Clara Belzer and Willem M. de Vos.

Jan Roelof van der Meer

Keynote speaker Jan Roelof

Jan Roelof van der Meer (1961) studied Environmental Sciences at Wageningen University and obtained his PhD in Environmental Microbiology from the same university, under supervision of Prof. Alexander Zehnder and Prof. Willem de Vos. He worked as a postdoc at the Netherlands Institute for Dairy Research before moving to the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Sciences (Eawag) as Junior Group Leader in 1992. Since 2003 he is Professor in Environmental Microbiology at the University of Lausanne, and in 2011 he became Director of the Department of Fundamental Microbiology. His research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of genetic adaptation to toxic compounds in bacteria, development of synthetic gene circuits for and applications of bacterial biosensors, and microbial community engineering. He supervised 35 PhD students and coordinated several large national and international research projects. His group published 170 peer-reviewed articles (citation indices: 43 and 48). For his work on bacterial biosensors he was awarded the Erwin Schrödinger Prize of the Helmholtz Foundation. As a teacher he received the Excellence in Teaching Biology award.

Note: Due to personal circumstances Prof Jan Roelof van der Meer is unable to present his keynote lecture. The programme on Wednesday 18th October has been updated accordingly.

Mark van Loosdrecht


Mark van Loosdrecht is Professor of Environmental Biotechnology at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands. He graduated (MSc and PhD) at Wageningen University with specialisation in Microbiology and Physical and Colloid Chemistry. He went to TU Delft in 1988 and became Full Professor in 1998. His research is characterized by the combination of scientific understanding of complex systems and development of new processes. His scientific interests are related to biofilm processes, nutrient conversion processes and the role of storage polymers in microbial ecology. In particular, he is interested in new processes related to wastewater treatment and resource recovery. His research has resulted in several processes currently applied on full scale such as the Sharon process, Anammox process and Nereda process. Currently processes for bioplastics and hydrogels production from waste are in the scale-up phase. He is active member of the International Water Association (IWA) and past chairman of the Biofilm and the Nutrient removal specialist groups. He is Editor-in-Chief of Water Research. He obtained several prizes for his work, including the Lee Kuan Yew Singapore Water Prize, the NWO Spinoza Award, the STW Simon Stevin award and the IWA Grand Award. He is member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Dutch Academy of Engineering (AcTI) and the US National Academy of Engineering (NAE). He was awarded a knighthood in the order of the Dutch Lion. He has published over 650 scientific papers (google scholar h-index 120), holds around 20 patents and has supervised over 50 PhD students.

Hauke Harms

Keynote speaker Hauke Harms

Hauke Harms (1961) studied Biology at the University of Hamburg, where in 1990 he received his PhD for a study about microbial dioxin degradation. From 1991 to 1993 he worked as a long-term fellow of the European Environmental Research Organization (EERO) with Prof. Alexander Zehnder at the Laboratory of Microbiology in Wageningen. Here and during his subsequent career stage as a Research Associate at the Swiss Federal Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (EAWAG) he dealt with the physico-chemical constraints of pollutant degradation in the terrestrial environment. In 1998, Hauke Harms became Assistant Professor of soil microbiology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and in 2004, he moved to his present positions as Department Head at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ (Leipzig, Germany) and full Professor for Environmental Microbiology at the University of Leipzig. Besides being responsible for a broad range of ecological, microbiological and biotechnological studies conducted by 10 independent research groups in his department, Hauke Harms is Head of the Environmental Engineering and Biotechnology section (equivalent to a dean) at his research centre and acts as the coordinator of the Helmholtz research program ‘Terrestrial Environment’.     

Hauke Harms has (co-)authored 250 peer-reviewed publications with an H-factor (ISI) of 46. In 2010, he was awarded the prestigious Schrödinger-Prize for interdisciplinary research. 

Bernhard Schink

Keynote speaker Bernhard Schink

Bernhard Schink (1950) studied biology with special emphasis on microbiology at Marburg and Göttingen and obtained his doctoral degree in Göttingen in 1977. After postdoc stays in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, and Konstanz, he became professor in Marburg and Tübingen before he finally settled again in Konstanz where he holds a chair for limnic microbiology. His main research interest is on the physiology, ecology and biochemistry of anaerobic microbial transformation activities in natural and manmade ecosystems. He is a member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, the Academy of Sciences in Literature in Mainz as well as the American and the European Academy of Microbiology, and he was vice president and president of FEMS. He supervised more than 50 doctoral candidates in his group and published more than 300 ISI-listed articles in peer-reviewed journals (h-index 56). He is an editor and a member of editorial boards of several microbiological journals.

Thijs Ettema

Keynote speaker Thijs Ettema

Thijs Ettema (1977) is an evolutionary microbiologist at Uppsala University (Sweden) where he heads a group that focuses on the exploration of microbial diversity with next-generation genomics approaches. He received his PhD at the Department of Microbiology at Wageningen University (The Netherlands) in 2005. After a brief postdoctoral stay at the Radboud University in Nijmegen (The Netherlands), he moved to Uppsala University (Sweden) in 2006, where he currently holds an associate professorship at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology. His group has a broad research focus and works on a variety of scientific questions connected to microbial diversity and evolution that cover all three Domains of Life, as well as viruses. One overarching theme in his research involves the origin of complex cells types (eukaryotes). Recently, he discovered a new group of archaea, the ASGARD archaea, providing new, compelling evidence that complex cellular life evolved from an archaeal ancestor that was more advanced than was presumed before. He is currently heading the the Microbial Single Cell Genomics facility at the SciLifeLab, a leading Life Sciences institute in Sweden. Thijs Ettema is the recipient of the 2007 Kluyver award by the Royal Dutch Society for Microbiology, he was named ‘Future Research Leader’ by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research in 2012, and was elected EMBO Young Investigator by the European Molecular Biology Organization in 2016. His research is, amongst others, funded by an ERC Starting Grant.

Mike Jetten

Keynote speaker Mike Jetten

Mike Jetten (1962) is a world leader in the field of environmental microbiology. He did his PhD (1991) at WUR on aceticlastic methanogens, followed by a post doc at MIT on metabolic engineering of amino acid producers. From 1994-2000 he was assistant professor at TU Delft on Nitrogen cycle microbiology. Since 2000 he is chair of the Department of Microbiology at Radboud University, Nijmegen. He received the prestigious ERC Advanced Grant in 2008 for his research on anammox bacteria, the Spinozapremie in 2012, and a second ERC Advanced grant in 2013 to study the ecology of methane oxidizers. Since 2013 he scientific director of the Gravitation consortium on anaerobic microbiology (Soehngen Institute of anaerobic microbiology). He is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences, the European Academy of Science and EMBO. In 2013 he was bestowed with a knighthood for his exceptional services to science. He has published more than 400 papers that have been cited more than 38000 times. His H index is 95. He has supervised 35 PhD theses and 32 post docs, and 22 PhD students and 8 post docs are currently working in his laboratory. In September 2015, his team started the first Microbiology master education in the Netherlands. He has been invited more than 250 times for keynote lectures and organized many international meetings and conferences. He holds several patents.

Hauke Smidt

Keynote speaker Hauke Smidt

Hauke Smidt (1967) studied Biotechnology at the Technical University of Braunschweig, University of Kyoto, Japan, and University of Stuttgart, Germany. He received his PhD in 2001 at Wageningen University, and has worked as a postdoc with Prof. Dave Stahl at the University of Washington, Seattle, focusing on the development of DNA arrays for micreobial community analyses. Since 2003, he has been leader of the Molecular Ecology research group within the Laboratory of Microbiology at Wageningen University. Key questions are addressed within national and international multi-investigator consortia, and include i) Microbial communities in environmental biotechnology, ii) Functionality of microbiota associated with body surfaces (gut, skin, mouth) in humans, production animals, as well as animal (mostly rodent) models, and iii) Microbes and their cellular biomarkers as proxies for ecosystem life history & environmental change. Research approaches include innovative cultivation-based as well as molecular approaches that aim at understanding and predicting ecosystem structure and function. Hauke Smidt has recently coordinated the EU-FP7 funded project INTERPLAY focusing on the interplay between intestinal microbiota and intestinal development and health in pigs, is member of the Management Team of the National BE-Basic program, and has been Senior Scientist and Theme Council member at TI Food & Nutrition. Hauke Smidt has (co-)authored over 200 peer-reviewed publications, with an ISI WoS H-factor of currently 45. He is (co-)inventor of several patents, and is member of the Editorial Board of several journals, including PlosOne, PeerJ and Microbial Ecology. In 2008, Hauke Smidt has been appointed Visiting Professor at Nanjing Agricultural University, and since 2010, he holds a Personal Chair in “Complex Microbial Ecosystems” at Wageningen University.

Alfons Stams

Keynote speaker Alfons Stams

Alfons Stams  (1953) studied Molecular Sciences at Wageningen  University and obtained his PhD at Groningen University. He studies the physiology and ecology of anaerobic microorganisms that play an important role in environmental biotechnological processes, such as wastewater treatment, soil remediation and the production and recovery of biofuels and organic and inorganic chemicals. He obtained an early career fellow of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and received a NWO Chemical Sciences TOP grant, an advanced ERC grant and a Gravitation grant of the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. He has (co)supervised over 50 PhD students and published more than 400 articles in peer-reviewed journals and books. His current ISI H-index is 57 (Google Scholar 75). He is editor of Applied and Environmental Microbiology and of FEMS Microbiology Ecology.

John van der Oost

Keynote speaker John van der Oost

John van der Oost (1958) studied Biology and obtained a PhD at the Free University in Amsterdam. He spent >3 years abroad, 2.5 years of which at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg. He returned to Amsterdam with a 3-year fellowship of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and Arts (KNAW). In 1995, he started an independent research group on Bacterial Genetics within the Laboratory of Microbiology at Wageningen University. In 2005 he was appointed Full Professor at Wageningen University, with a personal chair in Molecular Microbiology and Biochemistry, and since 2009 he is visiting professor at the Montana State University (Bozeman, USA).  He has supervised over 50 PhD students and with these and other collaborators he published over 260 peer-reviewed publications. He is an inventor of over 20 patents or patent applications and has an ISI h-index 55 (Google Scholar 61). He is laureate od a NWO VICI grant, and he has obtained two NWO TOP grants. He has been coordinator of an EU project and a Marie Curie Research & Training Network. He has been elected as member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO). John’s research aims to understand and exploit microbial control and defence systems. His current interest is focused on developing tools for enhancing the performance of enzymes and bacterial cell factories, and on discovering and applying guided nucleases such as CRISPR-Cas and Argonaute.

Alexander Zehnder

Keynote speaker Alexander Zehnder

Alexander Zehnder (72) studied Natural Sciences at ETH-Zurich and did his PhD in Microbiology at the Swiss Federal Institute for Aquatic Sciences (EAWAG) and ETH Zurich. His career brought him as a Postdoc to Madison, Wisconsin (USA) and as an Assistant Professor to Stanford University, California. From 1982 to 1992 he served as Professor for Microbiology at Wageningen University and from 1992 to 2004 as Professor for Environmental Biotechnology at ETH-Zurich and Director of EAWAG. From 2004 to 2008, he was President of the ETH Domain. Since 2008 he is Director of Water Resources at Alberta Innovates and since 2009 also Visiting Professor at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. He supervised over 80 PhD students and published with them and his collaborators over 250 papers. He has an honorary doctoral degree from the University Henri-Poincaré, Nancy, France, is a member of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), of the Swiss Academy of Engineering Science (SATW) and Foreign Member of the Russian Academy of Science (NAUK). He got the Order of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz), 1st Class. He gave the inaugural Perry McCarty Distinguished Lecture, Stanford University, California, the Charles and Mary O‘Melia Lecture in Environmental Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore and the Dr. John W. Macgregor Memorial Lecture, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada. He received a number of awards, chairs the Scientific Advisory Board of SCELSE, one of Singapore’s Research Centers of Excellence, and is on the Board of Trustees for the Knowledge Award of Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum Foundation.

Diana Sousa

Keynote speaker Diana Sousa

Diana Sousa is a tenure track Assistant Professor at the Laboratory of Microbiology from Wageningen University. She studied Biological Engineer at the University of Minho and obtained her PhD from the same university in 2007. During her PhD she specialized on the microbiology of the conversion of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) in anaerobic reactors and, inherently, on obligate syntrophic microorganisms. From 2007 to 2013 she worked as Assistant Professor at the Department of Biological Engineering from the University of Minho. During this type she supervised 4 PhD students and was responsible for two scientific projects, one on the microbial conversion of LCFA and the other on the bioconversion of syngas. In May 2013 she moved to the Laboratory of Microbiology from Wageningen University where she continues her research on these topics. She has published 49 articles and book chapters and has been invited for several keynote lectures in international conferences. Her special interest lays on the study of the metabolic pathways, microbes and (synthetic) microbial networks that convert C1 molecules such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, methane and methanol, and their application to produce high-value chemical building blocks.

Stan Brouns

Keynote speaker Stan J.J. Brouns

Stan J.J. Brouns (1978) is a Molecular Microbiologist who studied Molecular Life Sciences and graduated from Wageningen University in the Netherlands in 2001. He received a PhD in Microbiology in 2007 at the same University after studying the sugar metabolism of hyperthermophilic archaea. From 2006 he has been interested in elucidating the mechanism of CRISPR-mediated bacteriophage defense in prokaryotes. In 2011 he started his own group at the Laboratory of Microbiology (Wageningen University) studying microbe-bacteriophage relationships after obtaining national (VIDI) and European funding (ERC). Dr. Brouns obtained a tenured Associate Professor position at the department of Bionanoscience (Kavli Institute of Nanoscience) of Delft University of Technology and is still affiliated with Wageningen University. He has contributed to over 56 scientific publications, has an h-index of 30, and has received a number of awards for his pioneering CRISPR work. His lab is interested in the interaction between microbes and viruses and studies the mechanisms that bacteria and archaea use to protect themselves from virus infection including CRISPR. His lab explores the adaptations that viruses have evolved to avoid defense systems and engineers bacteriophages for phage therapy applications.

Clara Belzer

Keynote speaker Dr. Belzer

Dr. Belzer is Assistant Professor at the Laboratory of Microbiology at Wageningen University and Research (WUR). Her research aims to understand the way microbial species in the gastrointestinal tract are able to degrade host-produced glycans (human milk and mucus).  The ability of these microorganisms to ferment host-produced glycans makes them ‘keystone species’ within the intestinal microbiota that are crucial for immune, metabolic and neurologic imprinting.  Topics vary from the microbiome of early and late life, human, mice, in health, and disease. The main microbial players are the mucus degrading Akkermansia muciniphila, intestinal butyrate producing Clostridia species and early life microbiota members like bifidobacteria.

Dr. Belzer was trained at the University of Utrecht (MSc.), Erasmus Medical Center (PhD.), and has worked at Harvard Medical School, TIFN and Wageningen University and Research.  Dr. Belzer is currently part of NWO funded; Soehngen Institute of Microbiology (SIAM) and participates as a Dutch PI in the EU funded JPI-microbiomics consortium EARLYMICROHEALTH. Her research has lead to papers in top journals like Nature Medicine, PNAS and ISMEJ and has resulted in several patents.

Willem M. de Vos

Keynote speaker Willem M. de Vos

Willem M. de Vos (1954) studied Biochemistry and obtained a PhD at Groningen University, partly done at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin. He is over 25 years Professor at Wageningen University, holds there the Chair of Microbiology, and serves as Professor of Human Microbiomics at the Medical Faculty of the University of Helsinki. He has supervised over 100 PhD students and with these and other collaborators he published over 600 peer-reviewed publications. He is an inventor of over 30 patents or patent applications and has presently an ISI h-index > 100 (Google Scholar > 125). He is a member of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the European Academy of Microbiology, and various international Scientific Advisory Boards. He has received early career prizes for international PhD and post-doc stays, including EMBO, MPI, FEBS and CEC Fellowships, and various career awards, including the Miles Marschall Rhone-Poulenc International Dairy Science Award, the NWO Spinoza Award, and the Netherlands’ Most Entrepreneurial Scientist Award. He also was elected as Finland Distinguished Professor, Finland Academy Professor of the Finnish Academy of Sciences, received an Honorary Doctorate in Medicine, and an ERC Advanced Grant. His research aims to understand and exploit microbes using molecular, (meta)genomics and systems approaches. His current interest is focused on the human intestinal tract microbiota and its relation with health and disease.