Bioorganic Chemistry

The Elk Crew

We keep science in motion...

Group Leaders

Wolfgang Kroutil

Full Professor (biocatalytic synthesis)

Wolfgang Kroutil

tel: +43-316-380-5350
e-mail: wolfgang.kroutil(at)uni-graz.at

Wolfgang is the kind of boss, with a door that is always open for the members of the group. And whenever you have seen his door handle, you know that a lot of people want to speak with him. He is not only the right man for special computer problems but also for problems with synthesis or screening. Wolfgang loves sweets and chocolate, so for all the people out there, if you need something from him, bring sweets to put him into good humour. And by the way, that is the way we are doing it here.

Author unknown

Additional Information:

Performance Record at UNIGRAZonline

Mélanie Hall

Assistant Professor (sustainable bioorganic synthetic chemistry)

Mélanie Hall

tel: +43-316-380-5479
e-mail: melanie.hall(at)uni-graz.at

Mélanie is originated from Brittany in France, and grew up there as a neighbour of Asterix and his friends. Although her German and English both are perfect, you easily can tell by her penchant for good wine and magic potions that she also did not forget her French roots. After working three years as a postdoc at Georgia Tech, Mél returned to our group, where she also had done her PhD thesis. Of course she first had to pass Kurt's rigorous athletics test, including outdoor survival, kilometres over kilometres of hiking, ski-touring and biking, before she was accepted as his assistant (probably she had to use some magic potion she brought from home).

Right now Mél has her fingers in several different projects but she always has an open ear for all of us to profit from her experience in chemistry and biocatalysis. In her free time she is always active, either visiting her friends all over the world or doing/trying/training pretty every (extreme) sport there is.

At the end one advice: If you meet her randomly somewhere on the world, double-check, since chances are 50/50 you have met her twin sister.

Christoph (2011)

Academic CV

Elk of Honour – Founder of the ElkCrew

Kurt Faber

Professor

Kurt Faber

tel: +43-316-380-5350
e-mail: kurt.faber(at)uni-graz.at

As the founder of the ElkCrew (ask him for the story with the elk), Kurt was our boss for a long time. In the meantime, he ascended to being an "elk of honor", the highest of decorations there is. He is still the most active member of our group when it comes to any form of sportive activity. No mountain is too high to be climbed by foot or conquered by mountain bike. Most of us have adopted modern times and use ski lifts, Kurt uses touring skis and scales any mountain all the way to the summit. Maybe this is due to the fact that he is kind of a freak in all fields of skiing. By the way, Norwegians called him a ski-o-holic. We are lucky that he is still around to let us benefit from his encyclopedic knowledge about (old) literature and especially younger elks like to listen to the stories he has to tell.

Author unknown

Additional Information:

Performance Record at UNIGRAZonline

Academic Staff

Silvia Glueck

University Assistant

Silvia Glueck

tel: +43-316-380-5479
e-mail: si.glueck(at)uni-graz.at

After two years postdoctoral stay in the UK, Silvia returned to Graz in 2007 where she is currently working as a University Assistant in the elk crew.

Author unknown

Barbara Larissegger

Lecturer

Barbara Larissegger

tel: +43-316-380-8641
e-mail: barbara.larissegger(at)uni-graz.at

Barbara has been a member of the elk-crew from the early days on, working mainly on the biocatalytic racemisation of alpha-hydroxycarboxylic acids. Nowadays, as she's employed only half-time, she had to cut back her research efforts, and she now devotes all her time to supervising lab courses and introducing future biologists and high school teachers to the wonderful world of organic chemistry.

Jörg (2014)

Isabel Oroz Guinea

University Assistant

Isabel Oroz Guinea

tel: +43-316-380-8635
e-mail: isabel.oroz-guinea(at)uni-graz.at

Isabel was born and raised in marvelous Madrid, where she studied Pharmacy and obtained her PhD in Chemistry with a thesis on the stereoselective formation of C-C bonds. The love for travelling is the hallmark of her CV: she went to Strasbourg for her Erasmus, spent part of her PhD in Barcelona and she even flew to one of the most remote places on the face of the earth to pursue her curriculum in biocatalysis: Greifswald. There she not only survived the everlasting greyness, but also acquired extremely valuable expertise on protein engineering.

Basically now, whatever is your problem, expression, purification, cloning or whatever else with your "pet biocatalyst" go straight to her. She is always willing to squeeze you in her calendar (she is so organized that Melvin Udall - As good as it gets, ed - looks like a beginner); moreover she is going to go into the "library mode" and start numbering all the hosts known by humans (and aliens) you can express your protein in. With amazing drawings attached. Besides helping doomed chemists struggling with the microbiological world, she accomplishes her goals. She nails projects at the same speed she finishes a book. And when you compliment her, she will humbly reply "I did not do that much". We are very glad Isabel flew a little bit more in her lifetime travel, to be part of our group and share her knowledge with us.

Simona (2019)

Tamara Reiter

Chemical Technician

Tamara Reiter

tel: +43-316-380-8646
e-mail: tamara.reiter(at)uni-graz.at

Tamara Reiter rejoined our group in summer 2013 after a short interlude at the TU Graz. Tamara is originally from Graz where she successfully completed the Chemie-Ingenieurschule. Since then she has been working in academic environment involved in various challenging and successful projects in the area of biocatalysis: deracemization of sec-alkohols using sulfatases, construction of bio-nanodevices for targeted drug delivery and recently the bio-carboxylation of aromatics. Every now and then she feels the need to go out into the world to explore something new. She spent one year in the States (Boston) to get the spirit of the American way of life, she already danced the hula in Hawaii and many more.

Silvia (2014)

Joerg Schrittwieser

Scientist

Joerg Schrittwieser

tel: +43-316-380-5334
e-mail: joerg.schrittwieser(at)uni-graz.at

After a one-and-a-half year postdoctoral stay in the Netherlands, Joerg has returned to where he belongs: the elk crew! And this is his story: originating from Northern Styria, he has started to study chemistry and philosophy (nope, that's not a mistake!) in 2003 at the KFU-Graz in order to become a teacher. Thank god, he discarded his initial plan and chose the scientific career instead, focusing on organic chemistry and biocatalysis, which directed him straight into the Elk Group. He has already performed his Master's and PhD theses within the group, working on enzymatic cascade reactions but also on the chemoenzymatic synthesis of designated alkaloids: several natural and non-natural products were thereby accessed via (enzymatic) oxidative C-C coupling. In his subsequent PostDoc, his already broad knowledge on cascades was further deepened, but he also gained a first insight into the small world of nanoparticles.

Kind of obviously, he has already worked on several projects and with many enzyme classes (ADHs, TAs, BBE, MAOs, etc.), thus gaining a lot of synthetic and microbiological experience. This and many more features make him a valuable and pleasant lab-colleague who is keen to share his knowledge with others! As such, you can frequently see him discussing all kinds of problems arising from the daily lab routine or giving a helping hand to somebody somewhere. And even though his current position as assistant claims a lot of his time for teaching Master's Students, he spends almost every second in the lab pushing his current project to success.

The question "how to manage all that stuff simultaneously?" may arise: simply by doing sports (e.g., hiking, climbing, tennis, and skiing), meeting friends, travelling, and reading. At the end there are only few things to say: welcome back, Joerg, good to have you here, and this was hopefully just the beginning of your scientific story.

Robert (2014)

Christoph Winkler

Scientist

Christoph Winkler

tel: +43-316-380-5462
e-mail: christoph.winkler(at)uni-graz.at

Christoph has a long history in the group. He did his master as well as his PhD in our group and in the meantime from a Padavan he turned to be a Jedi master of ene-reductases. The metaphor is not an accident, he's a fan of Star Wars, decorating his desk with all types of Lego figures. After graduation he visited industry but the wish for research led him back to the Elk-Crew in November, 2014. Nowadays he tries to broaden his skills on redox ezymes by using the Force to reduce carboxylic acids. Beside Star Wars he's also keen on designing and building non-existing Lego structures and figures (e.g., Clock Tower of Graz) followed by making professional pics of them. By the way, he likes photoshooting as well...

Gábor (2015)

Academic CV (PDF)

Researchers

Klara BangertSarah BergerSarah BierbaumerWillem BreukelaarEmmanuel CiganPiera De SantisBettina EggbauerSomayyeh GandomkarChristopher GrimmValentina JurkašElisa LanfranchiMattia LazzarottoStefan PayerMathias PicklSebastian RothViktor ScheinStefan SimićFrieda SorgenfreiAlexander SwobodaAlessia TonoliFlorian WeissensteinerErna Zukić

you may also check out the elk-alumni...

Klara Bangert

Doctoral Student

Klara Bangert

tel: +43-316-380-8635
e-mail: :klara.bangert(at)uni-graz.at

Klara is originally from Baden-Württemberg in the south of Germany and joined the elk-crew for her PhD studies in 2021. If you talk to Klara you might quickly realize that she has already come around a lot. After high school she went to Mexico for a voluntary social year which became a second home to her. After that, she started her natural science studies in Konstanz (Germany) and left the continent again to do an exchange semester in Chile where she fell in love with south America.

During an internship at the Institute of Molecular Enzyme Technology she worked with the PigC enzyme gaining high experience with the enzyme class of ligases. Her PhD thesis comprises an interesting approach consisting of a stay at the university of Graz followed by a secondment at a company in Belgium. During this time, she will work on the upscale of the synthesis of precursors in order to produce polymers from renewable biological resources. For this purpose, she works with P450- peroxygenases on the hydroxylation of fatty acids.

Klara is an extremely nice and open-minded person who is always willing to help. Apart from her appreciated scientific skills she is also multilingual, speaking not only German, English and Spanish but also Hungarian as her second mother tongue. Klara is a very positive person and due to her contagious laughter, we can be very happy to have her here as a new elk! Welcome!

Sarah Berger

Doctoral Student

Sarah Berger

tel: +43-316-380-8676
e-mail: sarah.berger(at)uni-graz.at

Sas is a true gentlewoman, even though she came from upper Austria. Due to her love for chemistry, she moved to Graz to study it. Although she joined the elk crew at an early stage of her scientific pathway, her young deer heart was also tempted by the Oberdorfer's group at the TU Graz, where she developed her passion for enzyme structures.

Please, don’t get fooled by her coy and calm attitude. Once she gets warm, fun is everywhere. She is a lovely person and one of the most helpful and nicest people walking on earth. Apropos walking, as I told you, she came from upper Austria and apparently, people there don’t learn to bicycle due to the uneven land (that’s what people say :P). Therefore, you will find her walking everywhere.

If you don’t find her in front of a computer analyzing enzyme structures and Corona wouldn’t exist, she would probably be in a bouldering hall (she has some damn strong arms!). She proves time by time her braveness by eating hot stuff. There is never a dull moment with her. Besides her funniness, you can always count on her when it matters most.

Erna (2021)

Sarah Bierbaumer

Doctoral Student

Sarah Bierbaumer

tel: +43-316-380-8635
e-mail: sarah.bierbaumer(at)uni-graz.at

Sarah recently joined the Elk Crew (for the fifth time) to work on her PhD. She started her career in Chemistry in Graz. After joining the Elks for the first time as a summer student she kept coming back for her bachelor's thesis, another lab internship and also for her master's project. She completed her master studies, which involved virtuously juggling a rather complex multi-enzyme system in fall 2019 before she came back for her PhD work, where she will investigate various deracemization systems.

Sarah is a very friendly and lovely person, she is always there to help anyone wherever she can. She also plays the piano virtuously and has a special talent for preparing wonderful baked goods. And whenever you're not sure if you should have another coffee, ask her, she'll have a philosophical and artistic reason why you should. We are very happy to have you in our group!

Frieda (2019)

Willem Breukelaar

Doctoral Student

Willem Breukelaar

tel: +43-316-380-8646
e-mail: willem.breukelaar(at)uni-graz.at

Born and raised in Nijmegen, the 10th biggest town in the Netherlands, Will learned to enjoy the cheesy and flat culture. While he was studying chemistry at the "free" University of Amsterdam and completing his Bachelor and Master degree, Will was going to weird places such as Calgary (Canada) and Cambodia where he was trained by a monk showing him the ancient technique to build wood houses. After he was staying for half a year at our group, working on strictosydine synthases, Will was highly attachted to everyone, because nice pleople like to hang out with nice ones. Therefore, Will committed himself to start his PhD in Graz with the topic "biocatalytic reduction of oximes".

In his free time, he is endulging himself in reading, playing the guitar and lacrosse. Even though he is coming from a flat land, he has already spent his vacations in Tirol. Therefore, he is a fast and talkative hiker and he is always eager to explore new mountains. Whenever someone is not feeling well because some things fail in lab, he loves to say it in a nice way: "you're an absolute pancake". Will has a great sense of humor and never misses a coffee break, a nice chat with bad puns or any social event. We are happy to have Will in our Group spicing up the motivation of an ordinary day :).

Mattia and Chris (2020)

Emmanuel Cigan

Doctoral Student

Emmanuel Cigan

tel: +43-316-380-8635
e-mail: emmanuel.cigan(at)uni-graz.at

Emmanuel Cigan (Ezi), was delivered by the stork to the Burgenland in 1993. Always fascinated in the natural sciences, his first contact with biochemistry was in 2014, when he joined the Elk crew for the first time for a summer internship, working on hydroxylation of fatty acids with OleT. Since February 2018, he is working on his master’s project involving strictosidine synthases. On rare occasions, when he is not working in the lab, he likes sports and playing the guitar. If you don’t encounter him, cursing about smearing amines in his latest chromatography, he is a very cheerful lad and always has a helping hand, if you need it. Good to have you here, Ezi.

Silvan (2018)

Bettina Eggbauer

Doctoral Student

Bettina Eggbauer

tel: +43-316-380-8635
e-mail: bettina.eggbauer(at)uni-graz.at

Bettina joined the Elks for her PhD work. She is a home-grown scientist from Graz. After having studied the chemistry bachelor program she broadened her knowledge by doing a master's in biotechnology at the Technical University of Graz. She entered the topic of biocatalysis for her master's project using cyanobacteria for whole cell photobiocatalysis. During this time she visited a group in Finland to expand her skills of working with the complex model organism of cyanobacteria. After having lived in the county of mooses she returned to Graz and defended her master thesis and became an Elk. In our group she studies flavin-dependent oxidoreductases.

In her free time Bettina enjoys to exercise in the gym or in the mountains. If she's not outdoors or in the lab she loves to spent time with her 'little tiger' cat. Whenever you need any advise she is always ready to help. Welcome to the Elk Group!

Frieda (2019)

Somayyeh Gandomkar

Postdoctoral Researcher

Somayyeh Gandomkar

tel: +43-316-380-8638
e-mail: somayyeh.gandomkar(at)uni-graz.at

In 2015 Eli joined our Lab for the first time. She arrived from Teheran with a lot of experience in synthesis. Always thirsty for new knowledge, she wanted to expand her skills into the field of protein expression and enzymatic cascades, especially oxidations. After her second successful project within the Elk biocatalysis group she decided to come back to Austria to face some new challenges. This time she is motivated to become a specialist on enzyme engineering of Flavin dependent oxidases to apply their chemistry in an enzymatic cascade.

Eli is a very warm-hearted and helpful person, always trying to spread a happy mood. If you would need help from her, she would always take care of you even if it would cost her a nightshift. We are very lucky that she keeps coming back to our group.

Lucas (2018)

Christopher Grimm

Postdoctoral Researcher

Christopher Grimm

tel: +43-316-380-8646
e-mail: grimm-christopher(at)web.de

Chris is one of the newest members of our group and joined the Elk-crew 2018 for working on his PhD. He was born in Braunschweig and grew up in the North German Plain. For his studies of biochemistry at the university of Greifswald, Chris moved even further north to the rough Baltic Sea. In addition to his long walks on the beautiful beaches, he also completed his bachelor and master thesis. During his master thesis he worked in the Bornscheuer group on P450-monooxygenases and became an expert in the field of biocatalysis, protein purification and protein crystallography. After his master’s degree in 2017 and a trip to Japan, Chris decided to leave Germany and to move to the Karl-Franzens-University of Graz for his PhD. His research project focuses on cobalamin-dependent methyltransferases in order to use them as efficient biocatalysts for methylation.

Personally, Chris is a really friendly and humorous guy. He is always helpful and in a good mood, which makes it very pleasant to work with him. He always works under the slogan: “Motivation is everything!”. Chris is also a very active and sociable person. In his free time he likes to play volleyball, squash or to hike through the mountains.

So, as you can see, Chris is a very nice person and we are glad to welcome him as a member of the Elk-crew.

Luca (2018)

Valentina Jurkaš

Doctoral Student

Valentina Jurkaš

tel: +43-316-380-8635
e-mail: valentina.jurkas(at)uni-graz.at

One of the first things you recognize with Valentina, is that she is a quite international person. Already during the time of her Bachelor studies, she left beautiful Croatia for an internship in India. A few years later – today – she has finished her Master studies in France, has worked in Greece for an extended time and started a PhD in Austria that will eventually bring her to Portugal and Germany for further internships. Valentina is a very competent and highly motivated biochemist and besides the lab, her interests are in traveling (obviously), hiking and good books.

Notably, Valentina's career is strangely in sync with the CV of Nicolas Tesla, as they finished the same high school and like her, Tesla came to Graz for his studies. So, Valentina, it's good to have you in our group and if you want to follow Tesla's footsteps in becoming a world-renowned scientist, the Elk-crew for sure is a good starting place… ;)

Christoph (2018)

Elisa Lanfranchi

Postdoctoral Researcher

Elisa Lanfranchi

tel: +43-316-380-8638
e-mail: elisa.lanfranchi(at)uni-graz.at

...is from Lecco (Italy), where the beautiful lake of Como is located. After her undergraduate studies in Milan, her new adventure started in Graz for a PhD at Acib GmbH with Prof. Toni Glieder and Margit Winkler. She was mostly hunting new enzymes for biocatalysis (HNLs and transaminases) in unconventional plants such as ferns from the styrian forests. Being very fond of research, she decided to do a PostDoc. The first one started in the Netherlands with Prof. Dick Janssen. There, she deepened her knowledge in biocatalysis and acquired knowledge in enzyme engineering with transaminases and demethylases. The 2nd PostDoc was then in the Department of Food Science, Ireland, working on enzymology of the human milk. Although the topic was interesting, Ireland was too far away from biocatalysis and the sun! Therefore, she decided to come back to Graz. By the end of 2019, Elisa started in our group to work on enzymatic cascaded for the valorisation of renewable resources. Beside research, Elisa is also a huge fan of taking adventurous travels, cooking or spending some social time out to party and since little Aki was born, getting sleep became one of her wishes. Elisa is a very communicative and helpful person and we are happy to have her in our group!

Erna (2020)

Mattia Lazzarotto

Doctoral Student

Mattia Lazzarotto

tel: +43-316-380-8646
e-mail: mattia.lazzarotto(at)uni-graz.at

Mattia is our newest Italian PhD student. Despite being born and raised in the very north of Italy (Azzanello, Pordenone), he is still a very nice guy. Our excellent cook Mattia had both his bachelor and master in Trieste, where not only he became an expert of organic chemistry graduating with the highest mark, but also gained very valuable skills, like distinguishing between peppermint and estragon. Sporty and always on the move, Mattia travelled even further to the north, the Netherlands, for his master thesis. In rainy Delft he worked with Hydroxynitrile lyases (HNLs) and became extremely skilled in biocatalysis and enzyme immobilization. With all the expertise already acquired Mattia joined the Elk-crew in June 2018 to work on the biocatalytic C-H activation via α-ketoglutarate dependent diooxygenases. We are very glad to have Mattia on board, not only for providing delicious cakes, but and above all for the great passion and motivation that he brought to our group from the very first day we met him. Just a little warning. Do not ask him for directions, he only knows one answer: look at the Mur and turn right!

Simona (2018)

Mathias Pickl

Postdoctoral Researcher

Mathias Pickl

tel: +43-316-380-5462
e-mail: mathias.pickl(at)uni-graz.at

Mathias is rooted in Steyr, Upper Austria but luckily, we could lure him to Graz where he decided to study Chemistry and Biochemistry. Soon, he discovered his love for proteins and enzymes that finally led him to accept a position as Master student in the Elk Group, which inevitably led him to also pursue his PhD just there. After some joyful years of experimentation in Graz, it was decided that also others should benefit from his vast experience with flavin-dependent alcohol oxidases and the aroma of some of his thiol substrates and so he was sent off to the group of Marco Fraaje in Groningen (The Netherlands). After more than one year and equipped with many new ideas and skills he returned to Graz, ready to obtain his PhD.

Mathias certainly appreciates good cuisine, and we would consider him a talented hobby-chef — how else would you explain pheasant stewed in red wine or risotto with black chanterelle for lunch? Given this fondness for especially Mediterranean kitchen (and soccer clubs) he moved on to an 18-month postdoctoral stay with Pere Clapés at the Institute for Advanced Chemistry of Catalonia in Barcelona (Spain) as a FWF Schrödinger fellow. There, his chef-skills came in really handy when it came to developing a balanced recipe for an amine oxidase/aldolase cascade. Now, we’re glad to call Mathias a member of the Elk group again and enjoy his willingness to help in any situation (being it scientific or else), the smell of his lunch as well as his Spotify playlist in the lab.

Stefan (2021)

Stefan Simić

Doctoral Student

Stefan Simić

tel: +43-316-380-8635
e-mail: stefan.simic(at)uni-graz.at

Stefan became an elk in 2019 when he started his PhD on photobiocatalytic reactions where neither the cold nor the darkness can pull him down. Originating from Serbia, where he also did his undergraduate studies, he moved to Spain for his Masters working on organocatalysis. After a research stay in his home country investigating laccases, Stefan found his way to the beautiful city Graz where he gets surprised by the apocalyptic weather from time to time (;D).

In addition to his tremendous gift of learning languages (including styrian dialect) he enjoys handicrafting in his free time creating various art pieces. Stefan is a friendly person always willing to help if needed. Welcome to the Elk-Crew!

Sarah (2021)

Frieda Sorgenfrei

Doctoral Student

Frieda Sorgenfrei

tel: +43-316-380-8635
e-mail: frieda.sorgenfrei(at)uni-graz.at

Frieda joined the Elk Group in January 2019 to explore the effect of solvents on the stability of proteins comparing experimental data with computational results. In the course of her Masters program Molecular Biotechnology in Heidelberg she did her Masters Thesis at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies extending her expertise in computational biophysics studying protein assembly by MD simulation. Furthermore, she obtained experience in various internships in both industry and academia.

In her free time, Frieda is very busy playing Lacrosse (at different destinations in Europe ;D), meeting friends, sewing and handy crafting. I met Frieda as a very warm-hearted, kind and reliable person. Her helpfulness and good mood make Frieda a precious Elk-Crew-Member. Very welcome to our group, Frieda!

Sarah (2019)

Alexander Swoboda

Doctoral Student

Alexander Swoboda

tel: +43-316-380-8638
e-mail: alexander.swoboda(at)edu.uni-graz.at

Alex initially conducted some secret background check on the group by performing multiple research stays with a few of us. Being convinced it is an Elk-safe environment, he joined the group to perform his master thesis. After this he decided to prolong his stay to obtain his PhD.

Don't ask him about his size, he is one cm short of the 2 m mark! This (big) advantage helped him in his fruitful (inter)national volleyball carrier. We are sure that his switch to the chemistry lab will be as exciting as life on the court.

Mél (2019)

Erna Zukić

Doctoral Student

Erna Zukić

tel: +43-316-380-8646
e-mail: erna.zukic(at)uni-graz.at

Erna comes from the spa town Wiesbaden. Despite being grown up in Germany, her soul encloses a pinch of the Balkan spirit inherited by her parents and relatives. She studied chemistry at the University of Rostock and, during her Erasmus in York, she was bewitched by some high-skills chemists called enzymes. At Gideon Grogan´s lab, she worked with P450s and Isomerases, focusing on purification and crystallization studies. Despite the nice countryside, England lacked the tasty German bread (sourdough). Therefore, it was time to move back to central Europe. Erna landed finally in Graz, joining our group for her PhD, and she is now interested in studying & developing biocatalytical toolboxes for amides. Erna is not only a skilled scientist, but a wonderful colleague to work with, always supporting and suggesting ideas for any kind of troubleshooting. If you miss a sportmate…well… just look for her outside working hours, she will encourage you to join cross-fit classes, hiking trips or any other kind of sport. Welcome to the helk-crew!

Elisa (2020)