Meet former students

Søren Dollerup Nielsen, spring 16

In the fall of 2015 I started my master project together with Assistant Professor Hans Røy. I wanted to move away from the typical University idea of fundamental research and start a project with an applied approach. The idea was to develop something that could be of practical use, and possibly give me and advantage when applying for jobs afterwards. Hans Røy guided me to an idea of using a novel technique called Isothermal Microcalorimetry (IMC) in environmental geomicrobiology. The IMC is able to detect extreme low changes in temperature. So low that it can detect heat produced from microbial metabolism. The approach of the project was to investigate if this technique could be used to quantify thermophilic endospores in Aarhus Bay.

The existence of warm (45-80°C) loving dormant bacteria in cold marine sediment has been a mystery since their discovery, as the provenance of these spores is unknown. Several scientific papers link the presence of thermophilic endospores in cold marine sediment with natural deposits of gas and oil. These deposits are present at depths with temperatures favoring thermophilic life and could facilitate the active bacteria we see differentiated into spores in Aarhus Bay sediment. The big question of my project was: Could thermophilic endospores be used as a bio-indicator for future oil deposits?

Being a master student at Center for Geomicrobiology was a great experience. The feeling of having a project that I alone was responsible for and develop into a product of success was the best experience I have had while being a student at Aarhus University. The people working at the center are extremely qualified and create a very inspiring and aspiring workspace.

My results were the development of a very fast method to quantify thermophilic endospores in cold marine sediment using IMC. The answer to the question of using thermophilic endospores as a bio-indicator of future oil deposits is something you the reader, can read about in an upcoming scientific paper.

Caitlin Petro, Spring 2015

I did my Master’s project in the Center for Geomicrobiology (CfG) and Section for Microbiology as part of a joint effort between Aarhus University and the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Germany. At the MPI, we had the option to choose from a number of different predefined MSc projects, both within the MPI itself and within collaborating working groups. I chose the project offered with Andreas Schramm within the CfG because it had the most interesting ecological question and was also, by far, the most interdisciplinary project I could find.


The project was a joint MSc project with another student from the MPI that centered on piecing apart all the different mechanisms of community assembly for microbial communities that are present in marine sediments. We were interested in this mainly because of work that had been done very far down into the sediment, in a region known as the deep biosphere. The communities that inhabit the deep biosphere are unlike any other microbial communities that have been seen, particularly in terms of the incredibly low amount of energy that they need to survive. We were interested in understanding how these communities are formed as they are buried in the sediment. Are they evolving to these environments, or are they just buried cells from the surface? The project, as a whole, used a lot of really smart techniques ranging from biogeochemistry to molecular biology to try to answer these questions. 


The project was very successful and we’re planning on publishing the results soon. I enjoyed the whole experience immensely, especially having the opportunity to work so closely with so many different researchers for the project. I was also really happy with the amount of supervision I was given during the entire course of my MSc. My supervisors were always available when I was stuck, but otherwise I was given free range to troubleshoot and make the results mine. It made the entire process really satisfying from start to finish, because I had overcome so many tiny obstacles on my own and come out at the end with a complete thesis.

Signe Brokjær Nielsen, spring 2013

I was a bachelor student at the Institute of Molecular Biology, Aarhus University. In the spring of 2013, I did my bachelor project at the Center for Geomicrobiology, Aarhus University. The project was an interdisciplinary project between the two institutes of “Molecular Biology and Genetics” and “Bioscience”.

I combined my molecular biology background with the field of microbiology. This combination gave me a different perspective on the microbiological field witch was useful since molecular biology and microbiology overlap quite a lot when non-cultivation methods are being used in microbial studies. It was exciting for me to see how well molecular biology and microbiology interacted.

I think it is very fascinating and motivating that there still is so much to discover within the microbial research field. That is one of the reasons why I chose to do my bachelor project at the Center for Geomicrobiology. I think it would be amazing to be able to contribute to future discoveries within the microbial research field.

In my project I studied whether bacteria and archaea can utilize Na+-pumps instead of proton pumps in order to make ATP more efficiently in the low-carbon deep biosphere with the project title “Adaptations to energy stress – The utilization of sodium translocating decarboxylases in the deep subsurface”.

During my project I got familiar with being in a laboratory and I got knowledge of and experience with various experimental techniques. I tried to be part of a research team and experienced the workflow in an experimental research project. It was greate being able to try out my theoretical knowledge in a practical way and test whether research in microbiology was something for me. All in all – a great experience!

Sena Sinan, spring 2012

I am a master student at the Fundamental and Industrial Microbiology Division, Biology Department, Istanbul University. In the spring 2012, I spent almost months as an Erasmus scholarship student at the Center for Geomicrobiology, Aarhus University.

For my master project, I have studied microbiological influenced corrosion by sulfate reducers in oil fields and cooling towers. My master thesis was about identification of sulphate reducing bacteria isolated from oil fields in the southeastern Anatolia Region in Turkey by molecular techniques such as fluorescence in situ hybridization.

During my stay at the CfG, I aimed to learn new microbial techniques for studying. My biology project at the Center was "Diversity of sulfate reducing microorganisms in sediments from the northeastern Bering Sea." During this project, I have extracted DNA from deep  sediment cores from two different sampling sites and used the DNA extractions for studying the diversity of sulfate-reducing microbes by PCR amplification and cloning of dsrAB genes and for enumerating  the microbial abundances sizes by qPCR-based quantification of 16S rRNA genes.

Jesper Jensen Bjerg, spring 2012

My experience with microbiology has been really amazing. I wanted to do an experimental project, and after some investigation, I found a 15 ECTS Bachelor project with supervisors from the Center for Geomicrobiology and Microbiology.

My work was about filamentous bacteria, trying to see if I could correlate different morphological types with genetic differences - a mixture of classical microbiology and molecular biology.

Working on your own project is a completely different experience to that of working in a laboratory as part of a course. You get to know the lab far more intense, and you feel part of a scientific endeavor rather than just doing what has already been done before.

My supervisors, despite being ridiculously busy people, not only always seemed to find time to help, but also had a burning enthusiasm for science. That’s the kind of thing that makes it worthwhile spending long hours in a lab, because what you do matter. The lab is always full of people, seemingly at all hours of the day, and you can always get guidance when you need it.

I would really recommend for any student to do an experimental project at Microbiology, whether they aim to be researchers or not. It’s an extra challenge working with things that you can’t easily see, but the difficulty just makes that feeling when you see the first results roll in from your experiments that bit sweeter. I think everyone studying science should experience that feeling as early as possible. It really makes the boring studying and the hard exams worth it all.

Teresa Gómez Bárcena, 2009-2010

Teresa was a master student at CfG and Department of Earth Sciences. She obtained her bachelor degree in Environmental Science from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain, and she has studied for her master degree at the Center and at the Department of Earth Sciences. She is now a PhD student at University of Copenhagen (profile). Here she tells about her research interests:

My research interests concern topics like glacier forefield ecology, successional chronosequences, greenhouse gases, carbon and nitrogen cycling, and soil development. The title of my master's thesis was “Biogeochemical studies of glacial ecosystems” and was based on results from field work in Greenland. Recently deglaciated proglacial areas undergo rapid changes after direct exposure to the atmosphere, when ice-free conditions arise. In my interdisciplinary study, I have investigated a proglacial area from a receding glacier in Southeast Greenland in terms of potential methane oxidation and the methanotrophic community responsible for the process, as well as soil development and the correlation of these processes to exposure time. My master's project focused on two main types of geomorphological features in glacier forefields: moraine ridges and glaciofluvial deposits, as depositional time markers left by the receding glacier.