Testimonial Alex Niederau

Published on
January 15, 2021

I came to Wageningen University to gain a deeper understanding of plants and the environment they interact with. Amidst the different research groups focusing in that field, the Laboratory of Nematology stood out due to their enthusiastic lecturers and committed supervisors during my first year’s courses. It was therefore an easy choice where to go to find a topic for my MSc thesis.

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At Nematology, I worked on how potato plants defend themselves against pathogenic nematodes, such as the potato cyst nematode Globodera pallida. In order to fight off damaging intruders, plants employ immune receptors which can recognize the presence and activity of the nematode. Those recognition mechanisms consist of a complex interplay of various factors, but being able to understand these mechanisms is a desired objective to breed for more resistant crop plants! My goal was to introduce a new method for the study of those interactions here at the Laboratory of Nematology.

                I started my thesis at the beginning of 2020 with a set project proposal and formulated research goals. When the Corona pandemic reached Wageningen, this nicely shaped plan fell apart. Even though, I first struggled under these new conditions, I later on managed to become independent in my project. I learned to be flexible and to adapt my schedule and experiments to the new situation, finally completing my thesis with a very satisfying result!

                During my thesis I was supervised by Dr. Octavina Sukarta and Dr. Aska Goverse. Whereas hands-on supervision was difficult during that time, great effort was made to keep communication and supervision going! In addition, any other member of Nematology was always happy to help out. Generally, I was allowed to follow up on the research objectives in my own way. My supervisors simply guided me during that process, gave me feedback when needed and corrected me if necessary. This way my thesis felt like my own research project with me in charge. It was a very challenging but rewarding learning experience for a junior scientist like me. I am glad I had the opportunity to do my thesis here and I will always have Wageningen and the Laboratory of Nematology in good memory!