Life on this planet ultimately depends on the activities of microorganisms, which have pivotal roles in biomass conversion, bioremediation, photosynthesis, in promoting plant growth, and (as intestinal flora) facilitating animal and insect nutrient acquisition. In addition to these beneficial roles, microorganisms contribute to several serious problems such as the production of greenhouse gases (e.g. methane) and, thus, contribute to global warming. They are also the etiological agents of many human, livestock, and agricultural diseases and cause massive economic losses every year. Furthermore, complex microbial communities contribute biofouling and antimicrobial resistance. Microorganisms are omnipresent and hardly a single ecological niche has been recognised which does not harbor them. The key to the widespread success of microorganisms is the immense biochemical and physiological diversity among microbial species and the ability of individual microorganisms and microbial communities to adapt to changes in the environment. These diverse metabolic capabilities thus create great potential for biotechnology and synthetic biology. Thus, the study of microorganisms represents an important facet of both basic and applied biological research.
To reap the benefits of microorganisms in agriculture, bioremediation, and in the biotechnology industry and to combat their detrimental effects, it is central to understand how microorganisms function at an integrated level involving ecological, cellular, molecular and quantitative aspects. This scientific goal can only be reached in a multidisciplinary research approach in which researchers covering the entire spectrum of microbiology, from molecular biology to microbial communities to quantitative and synthetic biology, join forces.
Traditionally, research and training in microbiology focuses either on molecular and cellular aspects or on ecological aspects of microbial function. Here at the International Max Planck Research School "Principles of Microbial Life: From molecules to cells, from cells to interactions" (IMPRS-Mic) we integrate all these aspects in our PhD curriculum and train students in ecological, cellular, molecular, systems and synthetic aspects of a diverse range of microorganisms and microbial activities.
The IMPRS-Mic research groups and central facilities are located on the Campus Lahnberge, one of the best hubs of microbiology research worldwide. Within the IMPRS-Mic over 35 research groups from the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology, Center for Synthetic Microbiology (SYNMIKRO) and the Philipps-Universität Marburg perform cutting-edge research in modern microbiology and educate students in a highly collaborative and multidisciplinary fashion. We use state-of-the-art technologies in our facilities that afford us to study a plethora of topics ranging from molecular and cellular microbiology to microbial ecology, and to systems and synthetic biology.
Together the Max Planck Institute, the Philipps-Universität Marburg and SYNMIKRO have established a superb infrastructure on Campus Lahnberge with access to state-of-the-art equipment in mass spectrometry for proteomics and metabolomics, live cell imaging incl. FRET, FRAP and TIRF as well as high resolution microscopy such as PALM/STORM, STED and SIM, transmission electron microscopy, robotics for high-throughput screening, protein-protein/ligand interactions and flow cytometry and FACS.