Presenting… early stage researchers: Johannes Herpell is rethinking agriculture

Rethinking Agriculture: Johannes Herpell explains his research

Johannes Herpell and his colleagues investigate bacteria that live on leaves and roots of plants. They isolate the bacteria and investigate where they occur in nature and what exactly they do. “We try to understand the molecular processes that lead to the promotion of plant growth by these bacteria and we try to implement our research in agricultural systems. I think you could say we try to develop a sustainable solution to plant fertilisation and stress resistance.”

According to Herpell microorganisms are powerful players in large scale geochemical cycles. Influencing these organisms could fix a lot of problems around the world – the excessive use of fertiliser, the leaching of nitrogen into nature and its eutrophication. But also the use of pesticides. “We try to ramp up natural resistance of plants, facilitated by beneficial bacteria.”

Semester question: How do we humans affect the earth?

The age of humans – the so-called Anthropocene – is confronting us with major questions about the future: How do we humans affect the earth? The semester question of the University of Vienna attempts to identify the burning questions about the Anthropocene and demonstrate the answers academia can provide. “Our negative impact on the earth’s biosphere and on its climate are undeniable. The real question is: how can we help it to recover? Combining (bio)technological solutions for enhanced crop production with a reduction of land use intensity could set us back on the right path”, so Johannes Herpell.

Johannes Herpell is a doctoral candidate at the Vienna Doctoral School of Ecology and Evolution. With his research, he aims to find parts of the solution for climate change and world hunger within microorganisms.

Doctoral schools at the University of Vienna

At universities all over Europe, doctoral schools have proven successful in offering the best possible support to doctoral candidates by providing an appropriate framework for their doctoral education. “The new doctoral schools at the University of Vienna correspond to international standards and meet the highest quality criteria,” says Jean-Robert Tyran, Vice-Rector for Research and International Affairs at the University of Vienna.

Based on an increase in funding for the doctoral programmes in combination with a fundamentally reformed structure, the doctoral schools enable independent academic research and adhere to the principle of education through research. “Graduates of the doctoral schools are actively involved in the international academic community and have gained experience in working independently. This qualifies them for their future professional careers, either inside or outside universities,” Jean-Robert Tyran explains.

Peer culture and international exchange

Doctoral candidates participating in the University’s doctoral schools have the opportunity to complete special courses and acquire knowledge of the latest methods and techniques, discuss their own research in detail in seminars and enjoy the open exchange with supervisors and other doctoral candidates. Workshops, seminars, research excursions, retreats and summer schools contribute to a lively and international peer culture. (hm/ak)

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