Current lab members

Christoph Keel – Group leader

Christoph completed his studies in Agronomy with specialization in Plant Sciences at ETH Zurich in 1985. He carried out his doctoral research at the Institute of Phytomedicine at ETH Zurich, working with Geneviève Défago on biological control of soil-borne plant diseases. He received his PhD and the ETH silver medal in early 1989. He then was an OECD postdoctoral fellow with R. James Cook, David Weller and Linda Thomashow at Washington State University, Pullman, USA, investigating the molecular diversity of rhizosphere pseudomonads. He returned to ETH Zurich to work as a group leader at the Institute of Plant Sciences/Phytopathology. In 1995, he joined the group of Dieter Haas at the University of Lausanne as a group leader (Maître d’Enseignement et de Recherche I). He developed an independent research group, studying molecular interactions of pseudomonads with plants, fungal pathogens and insects. Since 1998, he serves in the steering committee of the Swiss Society for Phytiatry (Phytopathology/ Applied Entomology) and was president from 2003 to 2009.

Teaching activities

Jordan Vacheron – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Jordan finished his PhD thesis in December 2015 in the Microbial Ecology Laboratory at the University Claude Bernard Lyon 1. The PhD thesis work of Jordan was focused on plant-associated bacteria of the Pseudomonas fluorescens lineage making part of the so-called plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR). Jordan investigated in particular  the distribution and the functioning of plant-beneficial traits across fluorescent pseudomonads, from genomes to microbial populations, using molecular, bioinformatic and ecological approaches. He then did a one-year postdoc in Lyon, working on the biological control of parasitic plants using PGPR. Jordan  joined the Keel lab in December 2016 in order to investigate Pseudomonas-insect-plant interactions.

Clara Heiman – PhD Student

Clara joined the Keel group in February 2018 to carry out her Master project within the Master program in Molecular Life Sciences of the University of Lausanne. She successfully defended her Master thesis in January 2019 for which she obtained the Prize of the Faculty of Biology and Medicine.

Clara started a PhD thesis in May 2019 to investigate factors of plant-beneficial pseudomonads involved in competitiveness and pathogenicity towards plant pest insects, focusing on contractile phage tail-related devices, notably tailocins .

Pilar Vesga – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Pilar performed her PhD thesis in the Plant Pathology – Biological Control group at ETH Zürich where she focused on the molecular traits involved in the interaction of plant-beneficial Pseudomonas bacteria with insects. In her PhD project, Pilar contributed to clarify the insect pathogenesis of these bacteria and their ecological relationships with insects in nature with -omics and molecular approaches. Pilar joined the Keel lab in October 2020 as PostDoc to work in a European BiodivERsA network project on how disease suppressive soils and their microbial communities can affect the performance of emerging fungal pathogens and pest insects. Pilar has been the National webmaster of Pint of Science Switzerland since 2018 and she has been involved in other Scicomm projects for several years.

Daniel Garrido-Sanz – Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Daniel finished his PhD thesis in June 2020 in the RIZOSFERA group at the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, where he focused on the isolation and metagenomic characterization of natural-derived bacterial consortia for the bioremediation of organic pollutants, including PCBs and petroleum hydrocarbons. In his PhD project, Daniel was able to associate specific biodegradative pathways to populations within the consortia and to reconstruct the metabolic interdependence of the community. In addition, Daniel also worked with phylogenomics and comparative genomics of different bacterial groups, including the Pseudomonas fluorescens species complex and the Rhodococcus genus. Daniel joined the Keel lab in January 2021 as PostDoc to work on a project on how inoculant introduction interacts within the resident root microbiome of crops within the NCCR Microbiomes.

Ursina Rathgeb – PhD student (co-supervised with Niko Geldner / DBMV)

Ursina holds a MSc in Plant-Microbe Interactions and a BA in History of Modern Times of the University of Fribourg. Under co-supervision of Prof. Didier Reinhardt and Dr. Didier Schaefer she explored during her Master the functionality of the symbiosis relevant Vapyrin gene in the moss Physcomitrella patens. In the meantime, she discovered an ongoing fascination for live cell-imaging using confocal microscopy. As an intern in the Research Institute for Organic Agriculture (FiBL) she worked on field trials with seed and soil born pathogens. And in the national Research Institute for Snow, Forest and Landscape (WSL)she analysed historic data of drought damage in Swiss forests since 1864. Recently, she worked as a research assistant in the research group of Dr. Ora Hazakon establishing stable tissue culture transformation of tomato. Now, as a PhD candidate in a joint project with the research group of Prof. Niko Geldner at DMF and Prof. Harm-Anton Klok at EPFL she will be working on visualising bacterial chemotaxis towards plant roots. The aim of the project is to explore the potential of using plant-beneficial bacteria as vectors for the active delivery of biodegradable nano particles directly to roots.

Aline Altenried – Premaster Intern

Aline is a pre-Master Biology student from the University of Fribourg. She joined the Keel lab in October 2021 to do a research internship during which she investigates environmental Pseudomonas strains for phenotypic and genomic characteristics.

Céline Terrettaz – PhD Student

Céline did her Master project in the Department of Plant Molecular Biology in the group of Christiane Nawrath on the localization ABC transporters involved in plant cutin deposition (Master’s degree in January 2012). Céline joined the Keel lab as a PhD student in January 2014 to investigate the role of extracellular polysaccharides in colonization and insect pathogenicity of beneficial pseudomonads that live in close association with roots. Céline is currently working as research technician in the root microbiome team of Diego Gonzales at the University of Neuchâtel and is writing up her PhD thesis.

Pseudomonas protegens CHA0 – Lab beast

Isolated by Geneviève Défago from a disease-suppressive tobacco field soil near lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland back in the 1980es. Domesticated and still in use in the Keel lab as a model bacterium which surprises with an exciting variety of features and capacities.