Hitesh Kumar Reddy Medipally

a.k.a ESR 8


Department of Plant Biochemistry

Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Universitätsstraße 150, 44801, Bochum, Germany


Short CV

2018| Master of Sciences in Plant Biology and Biotechnology from University Of Hyderabad, India

2016| Bachelor of Sciences in Life Sciences from Osmania University College of Science Saifabad, India

2012| High school degree (12th standard)

2010| Matriculation (10th standard)

About Hitesh:

Hitesh was born in Mumbai, India. He grew up in small town in southern part of India (Mahaboobnagar). He pursued his master’s and bachelor’s degree in Hyderabad. In October 2018 he moved to Ruhr University Bochum for pursuing Ph.D. in Photobiocatalysis as ESR 8. Besides work, Hitesh likes urban exploration and cooking different foods.

Leen Assil Companioni

Leen Assil Companioni

a.k.a ESR 14

Department of Biocatalysis and Protein Engineering
University of Technology Graz
Petersgasse 14/1
8010 Graz


Project Title: CyanoBioTrans- Investigation of stress responses and electron sinks in Cyanobacteria

About Leen:

Leen defines herself as an Arab-Latin hybrid who grew up in the concrete jungles of Dubai. She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology in Dubai before relocating to Graz to pursue further studies. In 2018, under the tutelage of Professor Robert Kourist, she received her master’s of science degree for her work on autotrophic biocatalysis in C. necator. Leen is still a part of the Kourist group where she is currently a project assistant and doctoral candidate continuing her work on autotrophy.

Outside of the walls of the laboratory, Leen is a prolific tweeter who advocates for women in science, open access and hilarious PhD comics. She is also an avid cook-book collector who is always cooking up a storm and making jokes.

Hanna Büchsenschütz

Hanna Büchsenschütz

a.k.a ESR 13

Department of Biocatalysis and Protein Engineering
University of Technology Graz
Petersgasse 14/1
8010 Graz


Project Title: Light-driven biocatalysis in living cells (DBU-project)

Short CV:

2011                       General qualification for university entrance (A-level), Schleswig, Germany

2011-2017            University of Greifswald, Germany, Study of Biochemistry

2014                      Participation in the scholarship-program “RISE-worldwide” from DAAD: Research internship at the Western University London, Ontario, Canada
Project: Mechanistic studies of reverse nucleotide addition

2015                      Bachelor of Science, Department of Biotechnology and Enzyme Catalysis, Greifswald
Project: Enzyme cascade to produce chiral polyesters and investigation on the stability of the cyclohexanone monooxygenase

2017                      Master of Science, Department of Biotechnology and Enzyme Catalysis, Greifswald
Project: Investigation of two putative P450 monooxygenases from marine habitats

Since 2017          University assistant and PhD-student, University of Technology Graz, Department of Biocatalysis and Protein Engineering, Austria

About Hanna:

Hanna grew up in a small city in the north of Germany. Her strong interest in enzymatic reaction developed early in school while learning the citric acid cycle. After this, she decided to study Biochemistry in Greifswald and specialized in Biotechnology throughout her study. For her PhD she now explores cyanobacteria as candidates for environmentally friendly biocatalysts. She is fascinated by the complexity of enzymes and the creativity of nature to solve problems.

In her free time, Hanna like to go swimming or to play the piano. And not to forget, she is always looking for an opportunity to bake a cake.


Luca Schmermund

Luca Schmermund

a.k.a ESR 7


Biocatalysis Group,
Department of Chemistry
Organic and Bioorganic Chemistry
University of Graz
Heinrichstrasse 28 / II
8010 Graz – AUSTRIA



Short CV:

April 2018: Doctoral program, Karl-Franzens-University Graz (University of Graz), PhD student within the Light-driven Sustainable Biocatalysis Training Network

2017: Master Degree of Science in Chemistry, Philipps-University Marburg

Master thesis title: “Synthesis of 12-epi-hapalindole C derivatives to investigate the substrate scope of WelO15 halogenase variants”

This research work has shown a first step towards the use of non-heme iron-dependent halogenases as biocatalysts that chlorinate small freestanding molecules (Research group: Dr. S. Höbenreich, Chemical Biology).

2015: Bachelor Degree of Science in Chemistry, Philipps-University Marburg
Bachelor thesis title: “Investigations of DNA-uptake in Bacillus subtilis” (research group: Prof. Dr. P. L. Graumann, Biochemistry, Loewe center for synthetic microbiology)

2012: High School Diploma

About Luca:

Luca was born and raised in Korbach which is a small town in Hessen (Germany). Beside the halogenation of alkaloids, his expertise lies in the organic synthesis and enzymatic biocatalysis. He is always looking for a way to combine organic synthetic chemistry with enzymatic biocatalysis.

That’s probably why he ended up in the biocatalytic synthesis group of the University of Graz.

Besides work, Luca is a very sport active guy, always searching for new challenges. His favorite activities are volleyball and swimming.

Also this year his volleyball team competes for the Styrian championship.

Actually, Luca is always in a good mood and has fun with his friends.


Elif Erdem

a.k.a ESR 4


Aix-Marseille Université

Institute of Molecular Biosciences

Short CV

M.Sc. in Genetics and Bioengineering

2015-2017  Istanbul University, Genetics and Bioengineering Department, Turkey

2016  Erasmus+ Traineeship, Max Planck Institute Molecular Physiology, Chemical Genomics Centre,Dortmund, Germany.

Thesis Research Structure Analysis of The Human Notch1-Ankyrin Domain Via X-Ray Crystallography and Targeting Notch Transcription Complex’s Assembly by Using Potential Therapeutic Ligand Interactions.

2013 -2014  POSTECH, MS-PhD Combined Program, integrative Biosciences and Biotechnology Department, South Korea.
Project Detection of genome-wide Interactions between the genes that are expressed by RNA Pol II-containing Transcription Factories.


B.Sc in Science

2008-2013: Fatih University, Biology Department (Full Scholarship), Istanbul, Turkey

2012-2013: Erasmus Exchange Student- Aarhus University, Molecular Biology and Genetics Department, Denmark.

Research Projects:

  • A Study of the Interaction between HipA protein and Ef-Tu by using the yeast two-hybrid system
  • Purification and characterization of recombinant Isatin Hydrolase B: investigating the effect of a second metal-binding site on enzymatic activity
  • Producing recombinant Y4A Antibody by using Phage Display Technology
  • Production of Silver Nanoclusters by using DNA and G-Quadruplex templates

About Elif:

Elif was born and raised in the beautiful city Istanbul, Turkey. She was always a curious person and enjoyed science at school which then lead her to study Molecular Biology at Fatih University with a Full Scholarship. During her B.Sc. Studies, Elif had chance to do internship at Biochemistry department of UNR, Nevada where She started to aim to become an academic. Following her return, she postponed her graduation and joined Erasmus Exchange program went to Aarhus University, Denmark and contributed in several graduate level research projects, mostly studied related to Molecular Biology, Biophysics. She completed her MSc. Degree at Istanbul University, via joining Erasmus+ Traineeship program, she did her thesis research project in MPI-CGC, Dortmund where she got chance to learn about X-ray Crystallography, Fragment Based Drug Design based studies.

In her free time, she likes reading, listening to live music, discovering new places, playing games and cooking with/for friends. Nowadays learning French is also added to the list. ?


Valentina Jurkaš

Valentina Jurkaš

a.k.a ESR 2


Biocatalysis Group,
Department of Chemistry
Organic and Bioorganic Chemistry
University of Graz
Heinrichstrasse 28 / II
8010 Graz – AUSTRIA



About Valentina:

Valentina grew up in a beautiful small village in Croatia, surrounded by nature. It inspired her to learn more about the world around her, so she chose Molecular Biology studies at the University of Zagreb. After, she embarked on a dual-degree Master program between the University of Zagreb and the University of Orleans in France earning Master degrees in Molecular Biology and Bioindustrial Techniques, respectively. She believes developing novel cell factories to take advantage of microorganisms as natural biocatalytic machines is the key for a shift towards a sustainable industry of tomorrow with a minimal environmental impact. In her project, she gets to put that in practice and work with novel cyanobacterial cell factories.

When she is not in the lab, Valentina likes to travel, hike and read good books.

Jelena Spasic

About Jelena

Jelena was born in Belgrade, Serbia. She finished her Bachelor studies in Molecular Biology and Physiology at the Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade. She got her Master degree at the same faculty in the field of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology. During her master studies she got familiar with genetic engineering and how it can help us and the environment. Then she became one of the cats in the PhotoBioCat ITN project exploring possibilites of cyanobacteria as hosts for biocatalysts.

Except scientific approach dealing with our impact to the enviroment, she also promotes other approaches such as bicycle commuting and cotton shopping bags. She also enjoyes spending time close to the mountains, rivers and lakes.

Francesco Mascia

Short CV


2014 Bachelor degree in Biotechnology at University of Verona, Biotechnology Department (Verona, Italy).
Thesis title: Optimization of the expression conditions in E. coli and purification of the bacterial effector HopAI1.

2017 Master degree in Agri-Food Biotechnology at University of Verona, Biotechnology Department (Verona, Italy).
Thesis title: Insight into two different photoprotective mechanisms in green algae: Non-Photochemical Quenching and astaxanthin accumulation.

2017 Research scholarship at University of Verona, Biotechnology Department, Photosynthesis Lab (Verona, Italy).

2018 Research fellowship at Forshungszentrum Jülich, IBG-2, Alternative Biomass Group (Jülich, Germany).


About Francesco

Francesco is here because of his passion for photosynthesis and photosynthetic microrganisms. During his free time he enjoys reading, playing music, running and hiking.


Researchgate link


Fatma Feyza Özgen

Fatma Feyza Özgen

a.k.a ESR 5


University of Groningen
Antonius Deusinglaan 1
9713 AV Groningen
The Netherlands


Short CV


2015 – 2017   M.Sc., Istanbul University, Genetics and Bioengineering
2010 – 2015  B.Eng., Istanbul University, Genetics and Bioengineering

January, 2014 – July, 2016 Project Assistant, European Union/ Marie Curie Research Fellowship Project No:268201
June-September 2013 – ERASMUS Internship, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Aarhus University, Denmark


Publications list at: Fatma Feyza Özgen on ResearchGate

About Feyza

Feyza received her B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees in Genetics and Bioengineering at Istanbul University (Turkey) in 2017. During her undergraduate, she received a Scholarship throughout a year (TUBITAK 2209: National Research Project Support for Undergraduate Students) for her project and then she has studied her Msc with Dr. Gönül Schara’s Protein Engineering group as a Project Assistant of a European Union/ Marie Curie Research Fellowship Project (No:268201).  She also had experiences abroad through ERASMUS Internship program, she visited Aarhus University (Denmark) and learned about protein-protein interaction techniques using yeast two-hybrid system. During her PhD project, she completed her academic secondment at Graz University of Technology, and she studied at Aix-Marseille University as a visiting researcher for 6 months. Her research interests include enzyme engineering, the development of photobiocatalytic cascade reactions and light-driven Rieske-type hydroxylations. She stand strongly that the Photobiocat is a perfect project to establish herself in science.

In her free time, she likes outdoor activities such as Hiking and Camping. One of her exciting hobbies is Archery.

Giovanni Davide Barone

Giovanni Davide Barone

a.k.a ESR 10


Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie
Graz University of Technology
Petersgasse 14/I
8010 Graz

Short CV

1st June 2017 – 31st May 2018:

Research Assistant. Engineering Biosafe Photosynthetic Cyanobacteria Producing Biofuel, at Ångströmlaboratoriet Uppsala University (Uppsala, Sweden).

Professor Peter Lindblad (Ångströmlaboratoriet Uppsala University), in collaboration with Phytonix Corporation (Black Mountain, U.S.A).

Main topics: Metabolic Engineering, Cyanobacterial Industrial Biotechnology, Thermophilic and Mesophilic Cyanobacteria, Biofuel Production.


2014 – 2016 (Graduation: 28th February 2017, AY 2016):

Master Degree in Industrial Biotechnology. Master Thesis Title: Hydrogenase Activated Synthetically by a Mimic Compound: a peculiar example of Hydrogen production in Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. University of Milano-Bicocca (Milan, Italy).

MA Thesis Experience at Ångström Laboratoriet, Uppsala University. Supervision by Professor Peter Lindblad and Assistant Professor Gustav Berggren. 12 months experience (01-11-2015 to 31-10-2016).

Main topics: Industrial Biotechnology, Molecular Biology, Metabolic Engineering (Hydrogenase-Photosystem Electrons flux), Enzymatic Synthetic Activation in vivo / in vitro.


2011 – 2014 (Graduation: 28th November 2014):

Bachelor Degree in Biotechnology. Thesis title: Triglycerides and Cell Cycle in Saccharomyces cerevisiae: a Direct Link Concerning the Cyclin – Dependent Kinase Cdc-28. Professor Paola Coccetti. University of Milano-Bicocca (Milan, Italy).

Main topics: Cellular Biochemistry, Biocatalysts, Molecular Biology, Yeast.

About Giovanni:

Giovanni Davide grew up in Italy, childhood and adolescence are strongly connected to surrounding area of the city of Milan. Regarding University studies, he graduated in Biotechnology (2014) and Industrial Biotechnology (2017) at the University of Milano-Bicocca.

He intensified his research interest in photoautotrophic microorganisms and their biotechnological applications, especially during the development of his Master thesis on Cyanobacterial Hydrogenase Synthetically Activated in the lab of Prof. Peter Lindblad at Ångström Laboratory (Uppsala University, Sweden) for 12 months. Thereupon, he worked for further 12 months in the same lab as Research Assistant on an industrial project that strengthened his interest in the molecular biology and metabolic engineering of cyanobacteria.

In July 2018 Giovanni Davide moved to Graz University of Technology, where is part of the PhotoBioCat Network as ESR10 supervised by Prof. Robert Kourist. The main research topic is the characterization and utilization of physiological key factors for cyanobacterial biotransformations, aiming at improved production yields of valuable chemicals. This project is involving Prof. Paula Tamagnini (University of Porto, Portugal) as co-supervisor. The development of downstream-processing and commercialization is also planned with the industrial partner. Giovanni is always looking forward for new scientific challenges and open minded to make inspiring experiences.

He is also looking forward for join Teakwon-do ITF clubs, where he can practise Teakwon-do even if not in Italy, for live concerts and snowy places where he can practise snowboarding.