"I am extremely honoured to receive the MARUM Reserach Award for Marine Science for one of the best PhD theses", says Rafael Laso-Pérez. “This work would have never been possible without my supervisors and mentors, head of the MPI-research group and AWI-director Antje Boetius and Gunter Wegener, as well as many more people who have supported me during these years. Thanks to all of them, I could develop my research on some microorganisms that I consider amongst the most interesting in our field: anaerobic archaea."
During his thesis, Laso-Pérez discovered that some anaerobic archaea are able to degrade multi-carbon hydrocarbons using a new version of a well-known mechanism. They used modified versions of the methyl-coenzyme M reductase (MCR) to activate these multi-carbon compounds. MCR has been known for a while as the key enzyme in the methane metabolism of archaea, being involved both in methanogenesis and methanotrophy. It was thought that MCR was highly specific for methane metabolism. However, the results of Laso-Pérez' thesis show the existence of modified MCRs that are used to degrade butane and propane in the novel archaea Ca.Syntrophoarchaeum. This discovery has opened up a new research topic. Several studies have found these MCRs in other archaea after Laso-Pérez' revelations. “All together, my research shows that archaea play a more important role in hydrocarbon cycling as previously thought and opens new perspectives in the role of MCR in archaeal evolution”, Laso-Pérez concludes.
The MARUM - Centre for Marine Environmental Sciences of the University of Bremen annually issues the MARUM Research Award for Marine Sciences. This prize is awarded to outstanding master's or doctoral theses that have been written over the past two years by young marine scientists at the University of Bremen. The prize money of up to € 3,000 is to be used as a scholarship and is intended to benefit the scientific objectives of the awardee.
"The MARUM awards the research prize in recognition of outstanding achievements by young scientists," says MARUM director Prof. Michael Schulz. "As a cluster of excellence, the qualified training of young scientists is particularly important to us in order to create the best possible conditions for young people for their future careers."
The MARUM Research Award for Marine Sciences is awarded in cooperation with the "Verein zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung in der Freien Hansestadt Bremen (VFwF e.V.)"