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Katharina Kitzinger receives the Reimar Lüst Fellowship

Oct 7, 2020

Congratulations: Dr. Katharina Kitzinger has been awarded the Reimar Lüst Fellowship by the Max Planck Society (MPG). This will support the post-doctoral scientist’s research on the marine nitrogen cycle at the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen for another two years.

In her doctoral thesis Kitzinger succeeded in finding answers to longstanding mysteries in a key process of the nitrogen cycle, the process of nitrification. Before Kitzinger’s research, it was unclear, how am­mo­nia ox­id­iz­ing ar­chaea can be one of the most abund­ant mi­croor­ganisms on the planet – even though are dependent on ammonium, which is largely absent in the environment. Kitzinger has shown that these archaea can also use organic nitrogen compounds instead of ammonium, which ubiquitously occur in the environment.

Furthermore, she investigated how the oxidation of marine ammonium and nitrite can be balanced although ammonia oxidizing archaea are much more abundant than nitrite oxidizers. Her results show that the nitrite oxidizers, although they are growing faster, have a higher mortality rate. That’s why they are less abundant than their counterpart, the ammonia oxidizing archaea. For her outstanding research, Kitzinger has received the MARUM Research Award and the Briese Award for Marine Research.

In the next two years, the young scientist will continue her research on nitrification and the use of organic nitrogen compounds by nitrifiers. In addition, she will focus on so-called marine dead zones, areas where oxygen does not occur or is present only in very small quantities. In connection with increasing riverine nutrient input into the oceans, these dead zones are growing. On a single-cell level, Kitzinger will investigate whether anammox bacteria, which oxidize ammonium to atmospheric nitrogen under anaerobic conditions, can also use organic nitrogen compounds as an energy source in these dead zones.

About the fellowship

The Reimar-Lüst Fellowship is awarded annually to young scientists as a special support for to their outstanding research. It is financed by a foundation created in 1983 to mark the 60th birthday of Reimar Lüst, a former president of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. The foundation‘s endowment consists of donations from German companies.

Katharina Kitzinger (©Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie, A. Esken)
Katharina Kitzinger (©Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie, A. Esken)

About Katharina Kitzinger:

Kath­ar­ina Kitzinger (born in 1989) already ex­amined ques­tions about the physiology of ni­trifers dur­ing her bach­el­or’s and mas­ter’s de­gree at the Uni­versity of Vi­enna (2009 – 2015). For her doc­toral thesis, Kitzinger stud­ied ni­tri­fic­a­tion in the ocean and worked mainly in Bre­men. She did her thesis at the Max Planck In­sti­tute (MPI) for Mar­ine Mi­cro­bi­o­logy (2015 – 2019), in co­oper­a­tion with the fac­ulty Geosciences at the Uni­versity Bre­men and the Centre for Mi­cro­bi­o­logy and En­vir­on­mental Sys­tems Sci­ence, Uni­versity of Vi­enna.

Title of her thesis: „In Situ Growth and Or­ga­nic Ni­tro­gen Uti­liza­t­i­on by the Main Ni­tri­fiers in the Oce­an“

Grade: 1 „summa cum laude“

Su­per­visors: Prof. Dr. Mar­cel Kuy­pers (Dir­ector of the MPI for Mar­ine Mi­cro­bi­o­logy and Pro­fessor for Bio­chem­istry at the Uni­versity Bre­men), Prof. Dr. Mi­cha­el Wag­ner (Dir­ector of the Centre for Mi­cro­bi­o­logy and En­vir­on­mental Sys­tems Sci­ence, Uni­versity of Vi­enna)

Since Septem­ber 2019, Kath­ar­ina Kitzinger works as a Post-Doc in the De­part­ment of Bio­chem­istry at the MPI Bre­men.


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