In the spotlight

Meet a few of our students

Biology at Uppsala University includes a diverse cohort of PhD students who contribute immensely to the research and education in their respective departments.

JUNE 2021

Karla Münzner

Karla Münzner is a PhD student in the lab of Eva Lindström (Program of Limnology, Department of Ecology and Genetics). She is a freshwater ecologist and studies an alga called Gonyostomum semen, or "gubbslem", as it's known in Swedish. You can find "gubbslem" in brown water lakes all over Sweden, and when it grows a lot in a short time, it causes slimy algae blooms. However, we still don't know a lot about this alga: Why does it like brown water lakes that much? What causes the slimy blooms? How will those blooms impact water quality and lake ecosystems in the future? Karla's recently published hypothesis is that "gubbslem" needs high iron concentrations in the water to grow, and that it thrives in brown water lakes because iron concentrations in those lakes are also high. This summer, she is collaborating with researchers at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (Oslo) to find out if the slimy "gubbslem" blooms can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from Scandinavian brown water lakes.

Münzner, K., Gollnisch, R., Rengefors, K., Koreiviene, J. & Lindström, E.S. High iron requirements for growth in the nuisance alga Gonyostomum semen (Raphidophyceae). Journal of Phycology (2021).

APRIL 2021

Letian Bao

Letian is a new Ph.D. student in the lab of Prof. Anthony Forster (Program of Molecular Biology, Molecular Life Sciences, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology). His current research investigates influences of the peptide release kinetics by unnatural amino acids. He came into this field after his master study majored in cell and molecular biology, during which he joined the Forster lab, worked on overcoming chromoproteins limitations and published a paper in Analytical Biochemistry. Chromoproteins (CPs) share a similar structure with fluorescent proteins but have dark colors under ambient light, which enable inexpensive instrument-free analysis. However, CPs have strong toxicities. When they are heavily expressed in E. coli in order to show dark colors, their E. coli hosts lost colors in liquid culture in several days due to the mutations which silence CPs’ expression. He overcame CPs’ limitations by engineering a red fluorescent protein which has dark red color under ambient light and lower toxicity.

Bao L, Menon P N K, Liljeruhm J, et al. Overcoming chromoprotein limitations by engineering a red fluorescent protein. Analytical Biochemistry, 2020, 611: 113936.


Hannah Byrne

Hannah is a PhD student in the lab of Per Ahlberg (Program of Evolutionary Organismal Biology, Department of Organismal Biology). Her current research investigates the poorly understood biotic turnover across the Devonian-Carboniferous boundary, 358.9 million-years-ago (Ma), at the time of one of Earth’s major mass extinction events. Having a background in marine biology and oceanography, she came to the field of palaeontology through her Master’s project, looking at palaeotides during the Silurian-Devonian period (420 – 380 Ma), which has recently been published in Proc Roy Soc A. Her work was part of a collaboration project involving researchers from Bangor University and University of Oxford, UK and Uppsala University, where they used numerical tidal simulations to test the basis of the hypothesis that large tides could have been an environmental driver in the development of lungs in bony fish and later the development of limbs in early tetrapods. The paper has been well-received, with well-known physicist and public science figure, Brian Cox, tweeting about it!

Byrne, H. M., Green, J. A. M., Balbus, S. A., & Ahlberg, P. E. Tides: A key environmental driver of osteichthyan evolution and the fish-tetrapod transition?. Proceedings of the Royal Society A (2020).

An article by Science Daily

And a Tweet storm on the topic:

November 2020

Julian Baur

Julian is a PhD student in the lab of David Berger (Program in Animal Ecology, Department of Ecology and Evolution). His research investigates the links between individual condition and mutation rate. Mutations create variation, which is the fuel of evolution. Yet, little is known about the mechanisms shaping variation in mutation rates and the implications that such variation might have for evolutionary processes. He is particularly interested in the interplay between sexual selection and mutation rate, and effects of (the evolution of) ageing on mutation rate. The main tools for his experiments are seed beetles, experimental evolution, gamma radiation (to induce mutations), fitness assays, extensive crossing schemes, and RNA and DNA sequence data. Julian recently published his first PhD chapter in a great journal, congrats:

Baur, J., Berger, D. Experimental evidence for effects of sexual selection on condition-dependent mutation rates. Nat Ecol Evol (2020).

Last modified: 2021-06-03