Bioorganic Chemistry

The Elk Crew

We keep science in motion...

Group Leaders

Kurt Faber

Full Professor

Kurt Faber

tel: +43-316-380-5332
e-mail: kurt.faber(at)uni-graz.at

Kurt is our boss, so do not expect any true facts. Here we have to lie, excessively lie. He is 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. The only non professional thing we can tell about him is his old-fashioned computer (Apple, grin...).

Author unknown

Additional Information:

Performance Record at UNIGRAZonline

Wolfgang Kroutil

Full Professor

Wolfgang Kroutil

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

As you might have noticed, we do not have one single boss, we have two bosses. An "older" (sorry Kurt!!!) and a "younger" one. He is now the expert for pretty special biocatalytic problems: deracemization, oxidation-reduction, alkene-cleavage and C=C bond formation. Although he has his own students and post-docs, his door is always open for the other members of this 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 (especially for Kurt's Mac) 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

Researchers

Zaheer AhmadMatteo AleottiSarah BierbaumerWillem BreukelaarEmmanuel CiganElisabeth EgerBettina EggbauerMichael FuchsSomayyeh GandomkarSilvia GlueckChristopher GrimmMélanie HallLucas HammererHiromu HattoriEtta JostValentina JurkašBarbara LarisseggerMattia LazzarottoHorst LechnerIsabel Oroz GuineaSimona PompeiTamara ReiterLuca SchmermundJoerg SchrittwieserAlexander SwobodaFrieda SorgenfreiStefan VelikogneChristoph Winkler

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

Emmanuel Cigan

Doctoral Student

Emmanuel Cigan

tel: +43-316-380-8635
e-mail: cigan(at)student.tugraz.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)

Elisabeth Eger

Doctoral Student

Elisabeth Eger

tel: +43-316-380-8646
e-mail: elisabeth.eger(at)edu.uni-graz.at

Coming from the wine hills along the Schilcher-Weinstrasse, Elisabeth joined our group for her Master's Thesis (having been a summer student before) following which she decided to continue her scientific career with us. After making first contact with biocatalysis as a summer student working on ene-reductases, Elisabeth gained further experience in the lactamase project. In her free time, Elisabeth enjoys reading a good book or taking a long hike (although she simply calls it a "short walk") through the beauty of Mother Nature. Elisabeth's friendly nature, her helpfulness and her reliability make it very pleasant to work with her. Being a biotechnologist, she knows about the properties and peculiarities of proteins and how to deal with them. For her PhD-thesis, Elisabeth now faces the intricate challenge of stopping her enzyme which unfortunately happens to be a protease from eating itself and instead turning it into a tool for oxidative alkene-cleavage.

Nikolaus (2015)

Michael Fuchs

University Assistant

Michael Fuchs

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

Our group always played a big role in Michi's academic CV. After he did his masters with the elks he did an extended visit to the local "Christian Doppler Laboratory for Microwave Chemistry" with Prof. Oliver Kappe, but then rejoined us for his PhD. This was followed by a Schrödinger Fellowship with Prof. Alois Fürstner at the MPI in Mülheim. And now he is applying the expertise about the synthesis of big molecules and natural products that he gathered there again here back home in the elk crew. After a successful FWF proposal in 2018 he started his own subgroup, focusing on the development of biocatalytic as well as organic method development for synthesis.

If you are having a tricky synthesis problem, the fastest way to success is usually just to ask Michi for his advice. Therefore, after all his periods abroad, we were always very happy to have him, his broad knowledge about organic chemistry and his imperturbable humor back in the group.

Christoph (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)

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 Senior Post-doc in the elk crew.

Author unknown

Christopher Grimm

Doctoral Student

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)

Mélanie Hall

University Assistant

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 (PDF)

Lucas Hammerer

Doctoral Student

Lucas Hammerer

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

Lucas was born in 1989 in beautiful Klagenfurt. At the age of 18, he moved to Graz to start studying at the university. In 2014, he finished his master in chemistry in the ElkCrew. Then after one year journey in the oceans, exploring different parts of the world and feeding his soul, in 2016, he came back to the group for starting his PhD on a very challenging project working with P450 enzymes for hydroxylation of fatty acids. His hard-working, determined and passionate character helped him to become a professional in handling P450s in a short time and then coming up with lot of new and creative ideas in this area. He loves helping the others in their projects as well.

One of the amazing aspects about him is that sometimes you can find him catching the sunshine on top of any mountains, and a few hours later in the lab doing mutations, enzyme expression, purification or biotranformations. Our Multi-Culti Luke (that is how we call him) enjoys exploring new places and untouched nature. Based on the season, in his free time, you can either find him on the mountains doing snowboarding or on any island doing surfing or climbing and capturing beautiful landscapes. These activities help him to stay motivated for the hard work in the lab, which he enjoys. He never gives up, no matter how hard the work is, he will always find a solution. His positivity and big smiles spread the good energy every day to the whole group and we are all happy to have him in our group.

Eli (2018)

Hiromu Hattori

Postdoctoral Researcher

Hiromu Hattori

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

Hiromu is originally from Japan where he studied Pharmaceutical science at Nagoya City Universtiy. He earned his Master's degree in Agricultural chemistry working on the total synthesis of terpenoids before he came to Europe first as an internship student to Lonza AG, (Visp, Switzerland). He next moved to Basel in Switzerland where he worked on total synthesis of natural products to complete his PhD. During his time as a PhD student he moved with the research group to Zurich. After successfully finishing his PhD there he moved to neighboring Austria to jump into biocatalysis. In our group he is doing his first postdoc on the synthesis of spirocompounds.

If he's not busy in the lab stirring, working up reactions and biotransformations he enjoys to do a variety of sports. He likes to enjoy the beauty of the Austrian (probably also Swiss) mountains while mountaineering, hiking, biking and skiing.

Sarah and Frieda (2019)

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)

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)

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)

Isabel Oroz Guinea

Postdoctoral Researcher

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)

Simona Pompei

Doctoral Student

Simona Pompei

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

Simona comes from beautiful Rome where she studied chemistry. From the south of Italy, Simona moved to Graz in May 2018 where she's currently working on her PhD. Her work is focalized on methylases, but not what you are thinking: SAM is not involved. Basically, she uses cobalamin-dependent methyltransferases to transfer methyl groups from a molecule to another one. For this goal she performs mysterious experiments in the glove box. Simona is firstly a highly competent organic chemist and can give you good advice. Moreover, her previous experience in Amsterdam has shaped her knowledge in biocatalysis and biochemistry. There she has worked on a chemoenzymatic approach towards the synthesis of (+)-bullatacin.

In her free time, she is kind of a "call centre" always talking to some of her friends on the phone. And if not, she is flying to visit friends or family. On normal weekends, she is a skilled skier, she plays the bass and she is also really efficient in shopping. AMOR VINCIT OMNIA states her motto, therefore you can deduce her main passion is hugging people and she's always looking for "free hugs": feel free to show her your affection. Simona is always helpful and brings happiness to the whole group, so we are really glad to have her with us.

(Mattia 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)

Luca Schmermund

Doctoral Student

Luca Schmermund

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

One of our PhD newcomers is Luca who joined the Elk-crew in February 2018. He derives from Korbach which is a small village in Hessen (Germany) with a wonderful view from the Eisenberg; by the way a mountain with huge gold deposits. Not far away lied Marburg, where he had to climb its mountain anew to achieve his bachelor degree at the Philipps-University in 2012. But that’s not all, he even accomplished his master degree in 2017 with the topic: Fe(II)-/α-ketoglutarate dependent halogenases. Beside the halogenation of alkaloids, his expertise lies in the organic synthesis and enzymatic biocatalysis. Saying goodbye to Marburg and North Hesse, he said hello to Graz… again, a city with a mountain in the middle of the center;). His current research work will be focusing on light-driven reactions by protochlorophyllide reductases and we are expecting great successes…

I met Luca as a reliable, clever and kind person with good advice. His endurance during the working day is probably thanks to the long pilgrims to the canteen on the hill of Marburg. He is a very sport active guy, always searching for new challenges like in his activities like volleyball and swimming. Luca combines his great discipline with a portion of fun leading to his slogan: “Ein bisschen Spaß muss sein!”

So you see, Luca is a very kind and active person. You must get to know him, because he is as we all are- a member of the fantastic elk-crew.

Christopher (2018)

Joerg Schrittwieser

University Assistant

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)

Alexander Swoboda

Master's Student

Alexander Swoboda

tel: +43-316-380-8676
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. His project is tackling some challenging atropisomeric problems, and he will use a mix of theoretical calculations and enzyme chemistry to advance knowledge in the field.

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)

Stefan Velikogne

Postdoctoral Researcher

Stefan Velikogne

tel: +43-316-380-8646
e-mail: stefan.velikogne(at)edu.uni-graz.at

Stefan is a Carinthian native but decided to swap mountains and lakes for chestnut avenues and the Schlossberg when he moved to Graz in 2008 to enroll in chemistry studies at Graz University of Technology. After obtaining his BSc, he moved again, this time to Berlin, and started studies in toxicology at the well-known Charitè. Apparently, the world of venoms wasn't his, though, and so he returned to Graz and studied biochemistry, again at the TU. With such a broad scientific background, Stefan would be a welcome addition to any research group, and it was actually out of coincidence (his original supervisor took up a position in industry) that he joined us this autumn for working on his Master's thesis. Stefan's research project is focused on the expression and functional characterisation of a set of novel imine reductases, which unfortunately makes him spend considerable time in the uncomfortable coldroom, sitting next to the FPLC, rather than in our cosy lab. Despite these difficult conditions, he's very motivated, friendly, and always in a good mood.

In his free time, Stefan proves just as versatile as in his academic career: he enjoys a visit to the opera, the theatre, or a museum just as much as a bike tour, a game of volleyball, or a day at the spa. Moreover, he likes crocheting and he's a passionate hobby botanist - his specialty is the growing of exotic fruits. So, if you ever experience problems with your avocado tree, I'm sure that Stefan can provide some helpful advice.

Joerg (2014)

Christoph Winkler

University Assistant

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)