Ever since learning about the fascinating world of microorganisms during my bachelor and master studies Bioengineering Sciences at the VUB, I have dedicated a large part of my life to the study of microbiology. I became passionate about extremophilic archaea, prokaryotes thriving in extreme conditions, and worked together with my mentor Daniël Charlier to investigate molecular mechanisms of transcription regulation with a focus on unravelling protein-DNA interactions. After obtaining a PhD in Bioengineering Sciences, I continued this research, while visiting other archaeal researchers at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (Netherlands), Université Paris-Sud (France) and Institut Pasteur (France). In 2014, I became an assistant professor in the Research Group of Microbiology and started leading a research team in molecular and synthetic microbiology. My research approaches diverged from purely fundamental to combining this synergistically with application-driven research and from a focus on archaea to the study of microbes in all domains of life. Studying molecular mechanisms of transcription regulators and their use in synthetic biology engineering remains a red thread in most research lines. Current challenges related to environmental pollution and climate change create a sense of urgency that stimulates synthetic biology research and research in the context of the transition from a classical petrochemical to a biobased industry. I am convinced that the use of microbial cell factories for a large-scale biological manufacturing of chemicals and materials is a very promising technology in such a biobased industry.
My current focus is to contribute to the establishment and coordination of a qualitative research program in molecular/synthetic microbiology at the VUB. I am particularly dedicated to combining this with high-level education and to nurture an inclusive environment in which research and training goes hand-in-hand.