November 11, 2020

Meet the NCCR Microbiomes team: Jan Roelof van der Meer

“The unseen microbial life goes its own ways, yet we are totally dependent on it.” That is how Jan Roelof van der Meer, director of the NCCR Microbiomes, sums up his fascination for microbiology. “The crazy diversity, the molecular and mechanistic details, its evolution, the methodologies we keep developing to study it… it’s hard to select a single aspect as the most compelling!”, he adds with contagious excitement. Throughout his career he has become ever more interested in the adaptation potential of microbes in the environment, always enjoying the hard work needed to decipher what the data mean.

Back in 2017, Jan decided to bring together a group of researchers to build up the proposal that eventually became the NCCR Microbiomes. NCCRs are flagship research support instruments funded by the Swiss Federal Government and the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF, and calls for NCCRs are published only once every several years. When asked what drove him to initiate this network, Jan explains: “It seemed to me that the moment was opportune to prepare for an NCCR on Microbiomes, to unite many Swiss research efforts under a single umbrella and with a single clear agenda. It was a long shot; more than two years of preparations, pre-calls, and selections, but all partners and our host institutions were extremely supportive. Luckily we succeeded!”

Jan looks forward to how interdisciplinary cooperation boosted by the NCCR will enable great advances in the understanding of microbial communities: “The NCCR allows a degree of collaboration that is hard to achieve otherwise. I really believe that the complexity of microbiomes can only be tackled when combining disciplines and research areas, and by creating a true collaborative culture. I can already see and feel this when listening in to our seminars. It is wonderful to discuss within this group of scientists, young and old!”