“I am greatly honored to receive this professorship”, said Nicole Dubilier. “It will give me the opportunity to present and discuss my research in lectures and a course for young scientists at the Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel. Such an intensive exchange with colleagues and students, supported by the Excellence Professorship, is inspiring and my hope is that it will lead to fruitful research collaborations in the future”.
The Prof. Dr. Werner-Petersen-Foundation, in cooperation with the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, has awarded Excellence Professorships annually to internationally renowned scientists in the field of marine research. Nicole Dubilier will receive the 22nd Excellence Professorship, which is endowed with 20,000 euros and includes a research visit to GEOMAR, for her work on symbioses –mutually beneficial interactions between different species. Together with her team, she studies symbioses between marine animals and bacteria. The symbiotic bacteria use hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen or methane as energy sources for the fixation of CO2, which they convert into food for their hosts. As a consequence, the hosts can thrive on energy and carbon sources they can not use themselves to gain nutrition. The hosts in these symbioses include tubeworms and mussels that form the basis of large ecosystems at deep-sea, hydrothermal vents around the world. Some of these hosts rely so completely on their bacterial symbionts so completely for their nutrition that they have lost their own mouth and gut, and can no longer take up food on their own. The diversity, ecology and evolution of such symbioses are the focus of Dubilier's research. Her work contributes significantly to the understanding of microbial symbioses and their importance for the ocean ecosystem.
In his laudation, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Thomas Bosch, Director of the Zoological Institute of the Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel, highlighted the achievements of Prof. Dubilier. “In the nearly 30 years she has been studying symbioses, she has made significant contributions to our knowledge of these unique communities.” After initially focusing on symbioses in the deep sea, she later also began studying shallow-water associations, for example in seagrass meadows and coral reefs, Bosch pointed out. “The findings of Nicole Dubilier and her team are not only of central importance for understanding how these marine ecosystems function. Her research on host-microbe interactions is also of interest for innovative applications, for example in the medical field,” said Bosch.
The professorship was awarded to Nicole Dubilier on September 15th, 2020, in Kiel. The official award ceremony was held as a closed event due to the restrictions imposed by the Corona pandemic. In a lecture accompanying the ceremony, Dubilier gave a talk highlighting the fascinating world of symbioses she works on, from the Wadden Sea off Sylt to deep-sea hot vents thousands of meters below the ocean's surface.
On the research of Nicole Dubilier and the Department of Symbiosis