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You are hereUNIL > Department of Fundamental Microbiology > Research units > Jan Roelof van der Meer

van der Meer lab

Environmental and Evolutionary Microbiology


The key motivation of our group is to understand microbial activities in the environment at a fundamental level, to understand how microbial communities are influenced by human activities and how we can apply microbial processes for improving the quality of our living environment.

Genetic adaptation and evolution of catabolic pathways

One of our major interests is to study how bacteria evolve and adapt to use organic pollutants as novel growth substrates. Bacteria with new degradation capabilities are often selected in polluted environments and have accumulated small (mutations) and large genetic changes (transpositions, recombinations, horizontally transferred elements). Current projects in this topic study the specificities and modes of action of self-transmissable genomic islands (ICE) in Beta- and Gammaproteobacteria. 



Bacterial bioreporters and pollutant effects

Whole cell bacterial bioreporters are bacteria specifically engineered to react to the presence of chemical signals with the production of an easily quantifiable marker protein.They can be used as simple alternative measuring methods for environmental pollutants or toxicity. Current projects focus on integrating bioreporter strains in microfluidics platforms, on mutagenizing sensory proteins in order to achieve new effector recognition capabilities, on developing multisensor platforms, and on field-testing of biosensors.

Furthermore we would like to understand the relation between environmental conditions, pollutant effects and microbial activity. Current projects focus on toxic effects of pollutants on aquatic microbial communities, and on the effects of decreasing water availability on pollutant degradation. In the MicroScapesX project we focus on design and engineering of synthetic microbial communities.


Erwin Schrödinger Price

For their work on the development of a bacterial bioreporter assay for arsenic, Jan Roelof van der Meer, Hauke Harms and Mona Wells (from the UFZ Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig) were awarded the 2010 Erwin Schrödinger Price.







Full Professor

Head of Department
Dep. of Fundamental
Bâtiment Biophore
Quartier UNIL-Sorge
CH - 1015 Lausanne

+41 21 692 56 30
Janroelof.vandermeer [at) unil.ch

CV - personal homepage


Collaborative projects 


A NanoTera financed project 


A SystemsX.ch funded initiative 


A new FP7 project 

Biophore - CH-1015 Lausanne  - Switzerland  -  Tel. +41 21 692 56 00  -  Fax +41 21 692 56 05
Swiss University