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Otto Hahn Medal for Rafael Laso Pérez

For his outstanding scientific work on the role of archaea in the degradation of non-methane hydrocarbons, MPI researcher Dr. Rafael Laso Pérez is awarded the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society.

Rafael Laso Perez
Rafael Laso Perez (Photo: Max Planck Institut for Marine Microbiology, A. Esken)
Rafael Laso Pérez (left) and Gunter Wegener (right) study the metabolism of archaea from deep-sea sediments in the field as well as in the lab. (© Tom Pingel)
Rafael Laso Pérez (left) and Gunter Wegener (right) study the metabolism of archaea from deep-sea sediments in the field as well as in the lab. (© Tom Pingel)

In his thesis, Rafael Laso Pérez worked on a group of microbes called archaea. Archaea are different than bacteria and for a long time they have not been so deeply investigated.

Laso Pérez has contributed to unravel the role of archaea in the degradation of hydrocarbons in deep-sea sediments. He describes archaea with a novel pathway to degrade hydrocarbons in the absence of oxygen. The archaea using this mechanism are found in diverse hydrocarbon-rich environments like oil and gas seeps and deep reservoirs. This indicates a so far unexplored role of these organisms in hydrocarbon degradation and opens up for a lot of exciting future research.

“Especially important was the discovery of a new pathway to degrade butane. This has opened up a new field of research in archaea and could potentially be applied in the future to produce biofuels,” said Laso Pérez. In 2018, he gradu­ated “With Distinction”.

The Otto Hahn Medal

This year marks the 42nd an­niversary of the Otto Hahn Medal, be­stowed by the Max Planck So­ci­ety to hon­our its best ju­nior sci­ent­ists. The medal, en­dowed with 7,500 Euros, aims to mo­tiv­ate the win­ners to pur­sue a ca­reer in re­search.

Like very few oth­ers, Otto Hahn epi­tom­ised sci­entific ex­cel­lence in his own life, along­side the struggle for pro­gress on both a per­sonal and a so­ci­etal level. It was in his late twen­ties that Otto Hahn began his ex­cep­tion­ally fruit­ful co­oper­a­tion with Lise Meit­ner, which led to the dis­cov­ery of nuc­lear fis­sion for which he re­ceived the No­bel Prize in Chem­istry in 1944. As Pres­id­ent he at­ten­ded to the suc­cess­ful trans­form­a­tion of the Kaiser Wil­helm So­ci­ety into the Max Planck So­ci­ety start­ing in 1946.

“Rafael Laso Pérez has performed ground-breaking research on the role of archaea in the degradation of non-methane hydrocarbons”, said Prof. Dr. Antje Boetius, who supervised the thesis together with Dr. Gunter Wegener. “It includes the hallmark finding that methyl-coenzyme M reductases – an enzyme group that seemed to be restricted to the metabolism of C1-compounds – participate also in the anaerobic degradation of short-chain alkanes. The findings of his studies are intriguing for microbiology, biogeochemistry and especially also the evolution of archaea.”

With the Otto Hahn Medal, the Max Planck Society honours its best doctoral students. Especially gifted young scientists should be motivated to pursue a university or research career. “I am deeply honoured to receive the Otto Hahn Medal. This encourages me to continue learning, researching and being curious about the entire world,” Laso Pérez said. The fact that so little is known about archaea compared to bacteria was one of his main motivations during his PhD. “I loved to shed light on funky metabolisms and microorganisms.”

“This work would not have been possible without the support of my supervisors Gunter Wegener and Antje Boetius. I am very grateful for their support,“ Laso Pérez adds.

Fluorescence microscopy, one of the specialties of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, helps in studying these fascinating organisms.
Fluorescence microscopy, one of the specialties of the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, helps in studying these fascinating organisms. (© Tom Pingel)

More about Rafael Laso Pèrez' research

Please dir­ect your quer­ies to:

Scientist

HGF MPG Joint Research Group for Deep-Sea Ecology and Technology

Dr. Rafael Laso Perez

MPI for Marine Microbiology
Celsiusstr. 1
D-28359 Bremen
Germany

Room: 

1343

Phone: 

+49 421 2028-876

Dr. Rafael Laso Perez

Head of Press & Communications

Press Office

Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger

MPI for Marine Microbiology
Celsiusstr. 1
D-28359 Bremen
Germany

Room: 

2100

Phone: 

+49 421 2028-947

Dr. Fanni Aspetsberger
 
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