Current members

At a glance:

Joana Falcao Salles – Professor – microbial community ecology
Stefanie Vink – Postdoc – plant-soil interactions
Jolanda Brons – Research technician – molecular biology
Jan Veldsink – Technician – molecular biology
Yvonne van Katwijk – Secretary
Pina Brinker – PhD student – insect-microbiome symbiosis
Qian Chen – PhD student – AMF-bacteria interaction
Edisa Garcia Hernandez – PhD student – soil-root-insect interaction
Els van der Goot – PKU-gut microbiome interaction
Kiran Gurung – PhD student – insect microbiome
Gert Hofstede – PhD student – anaerobic biomass degradation
Xiu Jia – PhD student – rare soil bacteriome
Panji Cahya Mawarda – PhD student – Bacillus invasion
Yanfang Wang – PhD student – lignocellulose degrading consortia
Jiajia Xing – PhD student – microbial invasion


Joana Falcao Salles

Joana Falcao Salles – Professor

I discovered my passion for microbial ecology during my undergraduate studies, in Brazil, where I worked on nitrogen- fixing bacteria associated with sugarcane and developed that further during my PhD (Leiden University, NL, 2005) and my 3 year postdoc in Lyon, France. Since 2008 I am working at the University of Groningen, where I initiated a very enthusiastic, fun, diverse and multidisciplinary group that combines ecological and evolutionary theories to understand how microbial communities are formed and how they impact their environment, generating knowledge relevant for both fundamental and applied research.


Stefanie Vink

Stefanie Vink – Postdoc

I am currently working on the potatoMETAbiome project. My primary interest is in assessing the relationship between microbial and above-ground plant communities in semi-natural ecosystems and low-input agriculture.

If you are interested in joining me on the potatoMETAbiome project or want to do a general project in microbial soil ecology or collaborate on a bioinformatics project, get in touch


Jolanda Brons

Jolanda Brons – Research technician

I have been a molecular biology research technician at the University of Groningen since 2001. My role within the group is quite diverse, next to supporting the group, running the lab and performing field work I also have my own research projects.

In my current research project I am focusing on virulence genes in E. coli in urinary tract infections.


Jan Veldsink

Jan Veldsink – Technician

I am a molecular biology technician in the Salles lab. At the end of my study to become a lab technician I did a project at the University of Groningen. After that I was asked to do a 10-moth project – that was in 1998 and I’m still working at the University.

When I’m not working I like to be at home with my wife and 2 sons.  I also like sports, to watch but also to do myself.


Pina Brinker

Pina Brinker – PhD student

My research is focused on the evolutionary and ecological aspects of interactions between organisms.

I’m eager to integrate people into my research and if you would be interested to join my adventure of understanding interactions please feel free to contact me. As a supervisor I have the will to help you develop into an independent, enthusiastic researcher.


Qian Chen

Qian Chen – PhD student

There are more studies showing that AMF and plant growth promoting bacteria increase plant growth and salt tolerance under salinity stress. AMF can influence rhizosphere bacterial community composition and may also select some a certain number of bacterial group that cooperate with them to interact with plant. My research is focused on interaction between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) and bacteria in promoting plant growth under salinity stress. I want to know which bacterial communities interact with AM fungi under saline stress.


Edisa Garcia Hernandez

Edisa Garcia Hernandez – PhD student

My PhD research aim is to disentangle how plants, soil animals and soil microorganisms respond to environmental changes, and how interactions among them are affected by these changes.

If you find this topic interesting to do an internship or project with me, send me a message!


Els van de Goot

Els van der Goot – PhD student

I’m interested in the link between the microbiome, brain and behaviour. I study this link under a pathological condition called phenylketonuria (PKU), which is a metabolic disorder in which there is an inability to convert phenylalanine into tyrosine. This can lead to behavioural changes as deficits in learning and memory, increase in depression- and anxiety-like behaviours and sleep loss. I want to examine to what extend these behavioural problems are related to the microbial communities present in the gut in PKU mice.


Kiran Gurung

Kiran Gurung – PhD student

What kind of influence do microorganisms have on their insect hosts in terms of their life history? I study this question using microbes of Drosophila suzukii, an invasive insect pest of soft fruits.

In case your interests overlap with my research question and you are looking for any short-term or long-term project possibilities, feel free to drop me an email.


Gert Hofstede

Gert Hofstede – PhD student

Earthquake-free natural gas I will do my research on the (an)aerobic degradation of recalcitrant biomass. By cleverly combining this with CO2
hydrogenation we will produce more biogas via CO2 + 4H2 à CH4 + 2H2O (-165 kJmol-1); the H2 in this reaction comes from an excess of green electricity. In this way we will make a contribution to the climate objective 2030


Xiu Jia

Xiu Jia – PhD student

The focus of my research is to investigate which processes regulate rare species persistence and dynamics across space and time. I will do this by studying soil bacterial communties on the salt marsh chronosequence on the island of Schiermonnikoog, the Netherlands.

Insights from this research will promote a better understanding of the processes regulating microbial community structure and function.


Panji Cahya Mawarda

Panji Cahya Mawarda – PhD student

The thing about soil is – the more you dig into it, the more you realize that it’s not just dirt but a plethora of microorganisms that are of paramount importance for ecosystems. I am fortunate enough to do a project which dissects the impact of introducing microbial inoculant (currently using Bacillus) to these microscopic communities. From changes in their composition and structure to their effect on soil ecosystem functioning, everything about this project is simply intriguing in its intricacies.


Yanfang Wang

Yanfang Wang – PhD student

My main interests are in environment protection and microbes and the interaction between human emotion and health.

My PhD project examines the synergism in lignocellulose degrading microbial consortia. I am trying to find out how two bacteria and one fungus can cooperate to improve biomass degradation. This is very interesting and of great value for both fundamental and applied research.


Jiajia Xing

Jiajia Xing – PhD student

Currently my PhD project is focused on microbial invasion to soil. If you want to discuss any interesting interactions or invasion things, please contact me.