Research for the Environment

Paula Martínez Lavanchy

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Department of Environmental Microbiology
Permoserstraße 15
D-04318 Leipzig, Germany

Tel. +49 341 235 1374

Paula in the lab

Research interest

Since my third year of studies in Chile I was amazed by the environmental power of bacteria. Especially with the fact that such a small organisms are able to cope with tremendous persistent and hazardous contaminants. The fascination increased when I started to learn the complexity of bacterial metabolism during degradation of these compounds, and I have to say that until today degradation of contaminant by microorganims is a world of surprises for me. As a very general area of research I have used several molecular tools to try to understand the response of bacteria and its metabolism to different environmental conditions, which could constitute a stress or not. My current research, corresponding to my PhD thesis, is to study the effect of oxygen variations on catabolic gene expression of toluene degraders as they could occur in the rhizosphere (AXIOM). In parallel, I contribute to the research topic of anaerobic degradation of monochlorobenzene in groundwater (Dr. Ivonne Nijenhuis), where we try to detect microbial communities involved in the degradation of this chlorinated solvent. In the next starting project (BACSIN) we would like to investigate the effect of different abiotic stress conditions on bacterial catabolic pathway and its interactions with plant systems; and of course continue a never ending surprising story.

Curriculum vitae

since 2013

PostDoc at the Department Environmental Microbiology, UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany

Bioavailability group (Dr. Lukas Wick Gessler)


PostDoc at the Department of Environmental Biotechnology (Prof. Matthias Kaestner), UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany.

EU-project “Bacterial Abiotic Cellular Stress and Survival Improvement Network” (BACSIN).


PhD student at the Department of Bioremediation (Prof. Matthias Kaestner), UFZ-Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany.

European Union Marie Curie Host Fellowships for Early Stage Training. “Assessment of in situ Transformation of Xenobiotic Organic Material” (AXIOM).


Researcher at the Molecular Microbiology and Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory (Prof. Dr. Michael Seeger), Department of Chemistry. Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (UTFSM), Valparaíso, Chile


Study of Molecular Biotechnology Engineer, Universidad de Chile. Santiago, Chile.

Master thesis in Molecular microbiology and Environmental Biotechnology Laboratory, Department of Chemistry, UTFSM (Prof. Dr. Michael Seeger)


  • Application of isotope techniques to investigate the interactions of plants with microbes in contaminated soils (AXIOM)
  • Bacterial Abiotic Cellular Stress and Survival Improvement Network (BACSIN)



UFZ research themes

Contaminated Groundwater
Sub project: Characterization of intrinsic biodegradation potentials

Microbial Diversity

Sub project: Microbial activity in contaminated groundwater and soil

Graduate School HIGRADE

The new "Helmholtz Interdisciplinary GRADuate School for Environmental Research (HIGRADE)" is fostered by the Helmholtz Initiative and Networking Fund and will start in October 2007.

Project handbook published

"Model-driven soil probing, site assessment and evaluation - Guidance on Technologies"

 Available upon request at: