Microbiology lecturer at UL gets €75,000 Marie Curie Fellowship

15 May 2012

Dr Achim Schmalenberger

Dr Achim Schmalenberger, a lecturer in microbiology at University of Limerick (UL), has been awarded a €75,000 Marie Curie grant by the European Commission to take his soil microbiology research to the next level.

The Marie Curie Fellowship itself is a start-up research grant for researchers who are beginning their first full-time research position at a university. It is funded through the EU’s Marie Curie programme.

It was back in 2010 that Schmalenberger joined the Department of Life Sciences at UL, having left his position as post-doctoral research officer at University of Sheffield.

His current research interests lie in soil microbiology, plant growth promotion, plant-microbe-microbe interaction, microbial soil sulphur cycling and microbial weathering.

Environmental microbiology research

Schmalenberger spoke about the research opportunities the fellowship will now afford him.

“This fellowship is a brilliant opportunity for me to kick start my research here in Limerick. My aim is to investigate the mobilisation of the dominating sulphur source in soils,” he said.

According to Schmalenberger, about 95pc of soil sulphur is not directly plant available, but he said certain bacteria and fungi are capable of mobilising this sulphur sources and could, therefore, play an important role in plant growth.

“My lab will be using microcosms to study the transfer of sulphur from soil to plant via soil microbes and will use molecular tools to identify key organisms and study their metabolisms.”

Schmalenberger said he would be carrying out his environmental microbiology research along with two post-grad students in his lab for the next three years.

Prof Sean Arkins, head of the life sciences department at UL, spoke about Schmalenberger’s success in what he called a “very competitive area”.

“Achim’s research is novel and cutting edge and brings great synergy to our existing strengths in environmental biology,” he said.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic