Dr. turns Prof.: Our Alumna Mareike Dirks-Hofmeister accepted the offer to become Professor of Food Biotechnology at the Hochschule Osnabrück

We are happy and proud to learn that our alumna Dr. Mareike Dirks-Hofmeister will be Professor of Food Biotechnology at the nearby University of Applied Sciences in Osnabrück starting this fall. Mareike had started to study Biology in Münster to become Dipl. Biol., but she was then one of the very few, brave-enough and future-minded students who accepted our offer to switch to the new study program of BSc BioSciences which we were implementing at the time in the framework of the Bologna transition of European universities. She did her Bachelor thesis in our lab, working on a new bacterial disease threatening strawberry production in Europe, and became one of the first BSc graduates in Germany. She continued Master studies in Münster and we were lucky that she chose again to do her thesis with us, joining our doctoral candidate Carolin Richter in her investigations of polyphenoloxidases in dandelion. She was the first to succeed in heterologously expressing plant PPO genes in bacteria, opening up a whole new research thread not only for our group. After having won a doctoral fellowship from Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, she continued for her doctoral degree with us, extending her work on dandelion PPOs. During her PhD, she spent some time at Indiana State University to learn molecular modeling as a basis for her protein engineering, thus laying a sound foundation for much of the work we continue doing today. After one-and-a-half years of postdoctoral research with us in which she started to build her own “PPO group” (which she kept supporting and co-supervising from afar), she went to Ghent University in Belgium for two years to continue research in enzyme engineering, then joined the company WeissBioTech GmbH as project manager and Head of their research unit, responsible for the optimization of enzyme production and enzyme applications in food sciences. During that time, we enjoyed renewed collaboration in two joint research projects, the German F2F project and the European FunChi project, both targeting up-cycling of chitin from fungal fermentation wastes as alternative feedstock for the biotechnological production of e.g. food additives or for sustainable plant disease protection. Now, we hope and trust that her new capacity as Professor of Food Biotechnology will offer us new opportunities for more collaborations. Mareike – congratulations to your latest career move! – we are looking forward very much to what is to come.