MSc Thesis Topics of the Laboratory of Nematology

The Laboratory of Nematology provides the possibility for students to do their MSc thesis in collaboration with our group. Below you can find a variety of themes. On the subpage of each theme you can find a list of possible MSc thesis subjects.

If you are interested to do a thesis at the Laboratory of Nematology you should contact the thesiscoordinator Arjen Schots at

Your MSc-thesis can both be done in The Netherlands or abroad.

Curious to learn how other students experienced these Msc Thesis Topics? Check the testimonials.


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Parasitic worms are governors of the immune system in both animals and plants

Nematodes release proteins into the host to suppress the immune system, because they want live inside the host for a long time. The questions we address at the moment are:

  • How do nematodes modulate the immune system of the host?
  • Can we use immunomodulation in worm-therapy to treat hyperimmune diseases in humans

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Plant-produced helminth glycoproteins to combat inflammatory disorders

In industrialized countries the incidence of inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, type II diabetes and allergies has risen to 35-40% of the population. People in these countries do not often experience infectious disease due to high hygiene, current vaccinations strategies and medical practices. As a consequence the immune system is insufficiently educated leading to abnormal responses. In our research group we focus on understanding and developing strategies to prevent or combat autoimmune diseases and allergies by (re-)educating the immune system. 

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    Evolution, structure, and function of plant immune receptors

    Plants have evolved a sophisticated surveillance system consisting of immune receptors to defend themselves against a wide variety of pathogens. We are investigating how plant immune receptors (or so called R proteins):

    1. recognize different pathogens?
    2. induce local and systemic defense responses?
    3. evolve in the plant genome?
    4. traffic inside the cell?

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    Multitrophic interactions in terrestrial ecology

    We study the interactions between plants, the animals and diseases that damage plants above and below the ground, and the natural enemies of these attackers.

    We want to know how these interactions between the soil and aboveground affect biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. This question is investigated in relation to altered land use, loss of biodiversity, biological invasions and climate change.

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    Nematodes as human models

    We use the nematode C. elegans as a model for studying complex human disease like cancer and aging. With the help of quantitative genetics in combination with genomic technologies we explore the underlying genetic mechanisms of disease and disorder.

    Because the genome of C. elegans is sequenced, the results will likely lead us to the identification of similar genes in humans.

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    Roundworms – presumably the most numerous animals on our planet

    Soil and sediments are teeming with roundworms (nematodes). They are essential players in soil and sediment food webs. However, this group also harbors a number of notorious plant, animal and human pathogens.

    We are investigating nematode evolution and biodiversity with practical spin-off such as DNA barcode-based community analysis (to determine soil health) and pathogen detection. In addition, we try to reconstruct the evolution of parasitism.

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    The role of natural genetic variants in nematodes

    What role do genetic variants play in traits? Effects can be drastic, for example a single mutation in a human can cause cystic fibrosis. Similarly, the defense against pathogenic nematodes in plants is typically based on a few resistance genes. However, for many traits (e.g. height in humans or crop yield in plants) we expect that there are many genes involved in the differences between individuals. How this genetic variation came to be, and what its role is in trait differences is one of the topics investigated at the laboratory of nematology. Here, we work at the interface of quantitative genetics and molecular biology, trying to uncover the role and mechanisms of individual genetic differences. We do this with various nematodes, including the model nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and plant parasitic nematodes such as Meloidogyne incognita, Meloidogyne hapla, and Globodera pallida.

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    Soil biodiversity: Nematodes, Protists, the microbiome and more

    Soils contain most of Earth’s biodiversity. However, this huge complexity of life is only slowly being investigating with lots to be learned.

    We are focusing on diverse approaches to better understand soil biodiversity, particularly nematodes and protists, but also other microbes. For that we apply molecular tools but also cultivate organisms that we then use to determine their function such as in relation to plant performance.