I am currently a Research Scientist in the Department of Marine Organic Biogeochemistry at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ).
I define myself as a microbial ecologist in training. As E. O. Wilson said in his book the Naturalist (1994): –“If I could do it all over again and relive my vision in the twenty-first century, I would be a microbial ecologist”. As an undergraduate, I developed a growing interest on origins of life, its limitations and maintenance of microbial ecosystems. This led me to complete my doctoral study at the University of Barcelona under the supervision of Prof. Ricardo Guerrero. In those years, I focused in the diversity of microbial mat systems and the physiological status of the community under stress situations. During my thesis, I spent some time in the Center for Biomarker Analysis at the University of Tennessee learning techniques for quantification of signature lipid biomarkers in microbial communities in collaboration with Prof. D. C. White. I also performed some studies on microbial mat communities by means of quinone and intact lipid analysis by liquid chromatography tandem MS/MS, in collaboration with Dr. Roland Geyer at the UFZ Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany.
After obtaining my PhD, I moved to the US for a postdoc in the Department of Microbiology at University of Massachusetts, under the direction of Prof. Derek Lovley. My project was focused on relating growth conditions and gene expression of the sulfate reducer Desulfovibrio vulgaris growing under nutrient limitation in chemostat-continuous culture.
My continuous interest on the origins of life and a new interdisciplinary scientific experience brought me to start another postdoc under the direction of Dr. Irene Chen in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Science Center for Systems Biology. My project focused on the evolution of bacteriophages under selective pressures (antibiotic resistance) and the effect on the adaptive landscapes of phage proteins by using continuous culture experimental settings.
In 2009 I joined the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) as geomicrobiology (tenure-track). Since then my research has been focused on the field of molecular geomicrobiology: Molecular evolution of lipid synthetic pathways, development of genetic tools to detect lipid biomarker-producing microorganisms, and microbial ecology of marine microorganisms especially those involved in the nitrogen cycle. I got tenured in November 2013.
- For more info contact me: laura.villanueva[AT]nioz.nl
- updated CV