Center for Plant Molecular Biology

Labmembers May 2022

Microbial Interactions in Plant Ecosystems

Prof. Dr. Eric Kemen

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-7924-116X

Eric did his PhD in cell biology and phytopathology at the University of Konstanz where he discovered the first fungal effector protein delivered into host plants. Joining the group of Jonathan Jones at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, UK, he established sequencing and computational techniques to analyze fungal and oomycete genomes. In 2012, Eric became a research group leader at the MPI for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, focusing with his group on microbe-microbe and plant-microbe interactions. An important finding was the discovery of ‘microbial hubs’ that link microbial communities to the host genotype. Since 2017, Eric is Professor at the University of Tübingen combining computational modelling with ecology and host/microbe genetics to discover novel mechanisms in complex microbial community assembly and stability.

Administrative Office

Angela Gürtel, Email: angela.guertelspam
Oxana Bill, Email

Members of the research group

Vasvi Chaudhry

PostDoc formerly Humboldt Fellow

Email: vasvi.chaudhryspam


Vasvi earned her PhD in Biochemistry from CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute and University of Lucknow (India). During her PhD she worked on Molecular characterization of Plant Growth Promoting and phosphate accumulating bacteria with focus on Pseudomonas putida species and its potential role in plant growth promotion and bioremediation. This was followed by her first postdoc in CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology (India), where she worked on Microbial comparative genomics and metagenomics of beneficial bacteria associated to Rice. Her broad interests are in analysis of microbial community structure and study their possible interactions using computational as well as experimental approaches. In lab since November 2018, she is working in deciphering complex microbial interactions in Arabidopsis thaliana phyllosphere associated microbiota using culture-dependent and culture-independent approaches, microbial networks and reconstitution experiments using microbial synthetic community in gnotobiotic system. Her interest also lies in studying the source of phyllosphere microbiota.

Yiheng Hu


Email: yiheng.huspam

Yiheng has been a member of our group since March 2021. Previously, he obtained his bachelor's degree from Xiamen University, China and a master's degree from Australian National University, Australia. Yiheng then completed his PhD at the Australian National University and his doctoral thesis dealt with the detection of pathogens and the composition of microbial communities in fungal infections. In Tübingen as postdoc in the Kemen lab, Yiheng's research focuses on the dynamics and stability of the plant microbiome. Specifically, he is interested in the mechanisms of crossfeeding and secondary metabolites within the fungal community of Arabidopsis thialiana.

Ariane Kemen


Email: ariane.kemenspam

Arianes research centers on mechanisms used by microbes for inter- or cross-kingdom communication. After completing her PhD studies where she had unrevealed the function of amyloid-like effector proteins in rust fungi, Ariane investigated the host-microbe dialogue focusing on effector-receptor proteins and metabolites, both conferring broad spectrum disease resistances. Her postdoctoral stays at JIC, TSL and MPIPZ enabled here both to follow her topics of interest and to establish new methods for deeper insights into interkingdom communication. In her current projects, Ariane is studying the impact of host genes on the composition of the phyllosphere microbiota with the aim to understand the role of amyloid proteins in the modulation of host-microbe and inter-microbial dialogue.

Katrina Lutap

PhD student



Maryam Mahmoudi

PhD student


Monja Schmid

PhD student

Email: monja.schmidspam

Leonie Zott

Doktorandin (PhD Student)

Email: leonie.zottspam

Bilal Ökmen


Email bilal.oekmenspam

Already from a young age I have been fascinated by nature. This interest naturally led me to study biology. During my undergraduate study in Turkey, I got particular interest in the molecular basis of plant-pathogen interactions.
During my PhD at the Phytopathology Department of the University of Wageningen (in the Netherlands) and Postdocs training at the Max Planck Institute and at the University of Cologne, I have been working with underpinning plant-microbe molecular interactions in several pathosystems, including tomato leaf mold, corn smut fungus and covered smut disease on barley. My main research line in these projects was to focus on molecular understanding of how phytopathogens re-shape host defense and physiology to promote disease establishment. In this regard, I have contributed to plant-pathogen research by identifying and functionally characterizing several important virulence factors, including apoplastic fungal glycosyl hydrolases and proteases, from different fungal pathosystems by integrating genomics, transcriptomics, bioinformatics, proteomics and microscopic expertise. By using well-established Ustilago hordei-barley pathosystem, my laboratory focuses on how biotrophic smut fungi adapt to their hosts by modulating host apoplastic immune signaling and microbiota for successful colonization in a co-evolutionary perspective.

Samuel Quinzer

PhD student

Email samuel.quinzerspam

Samuel Quinzer completed his bachelor's degree in biology, followed by a master's degree in microbiology, at the University of Tübingen. In his Bachelor's thesis, he worked on cyanobacteria and their carbon metabolism. In his Master's thesis, he worked a lot with enzymes, especially with their purification and characterisation by enzymatic assays. Since February 2022, Samuel is a PhD student in the Kemen group and is investigating the influence of basidomycetes on the microbiome of Arabidopsis thaliana.

Elke Klenk

Research assistance

Email: elke.klenkspam

Hannah Gall

Lab assistant

Email: hannah.gallspam