I obtained my PhD in 1991 at the Leiden University after which I was appointed assistant professor at the Institute of Biology, Leiden University to study secondary plant metabolites in plants and their interactions with herbivores. I did spent a one-year postdoc at the University of Lille 1 (1994) and had short sabbaticals at the University of Queensland (2004) and the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig (2005).
My research concerns insect-plant interactions with a strong focus on the role of secondary plant substances. Secondary plant metabolites show an extraordinary large variety between plant species and within plant species. Many of our drugs, medicines and pesticides are secondary metabolites from plants. It is now generally accepted that secondary metabolites play an important role in plants as a defence against herbivores and pathogens. I investigate how the large variety of secondary metabolites comes about, is maintained, constrained and shaped in plants by natural selection through pathogens and herbivores. An experimental approach is followed using laboratory test, phylogenetic and ecogenomic approaches as well field studies. We use genomic techniques for genetic mapping, gene expression analysis and DNA sequencing.
A second line of research concerns invasive plant species. They form excellent study material to investigate the impact of natural selection through herbivores (and pathogens) on plants. Plants from invasive areas can be compared with plant from the native area to study how natural selection is reshaping defences and the allocation of resources over defence and growth.
Furthermore I am connected to the bioinformatics and genomics core of Institute of Biology. In these cores I performed research on the conservation genetic of lions in collaboration with Hans de Iongh from CML and currently contribute to research on hybrid zones from newts and toads of Pim Arntzen (Naturalis). Within the core I manage the high throughput SNP genotyping facility of the IBL.
Former PhD students and Postdocs
- Xiaojie Liu
- Laura Bertola
- Tiantian Lin
- Xianqin Wei
- Jun Rong
- Prof. Ted Turlings and Dr Gaylord Desurmont (University of Neuchatel, Switserland)
- Dr Patrick Mulder (RIKILT, University of Wageningen)
- Dr Barbara Gravendeel (NCB Naturalis)
- Dr Hans de Iongh (CML, Leiden University)
- Dr Pim Arntzen (Naturalis)
I teach about a wide range of subjects ranging from plant-herbivore resistance, molecular techniques, aDNA techniques and conservation biology in a number of courses.
I teach a 2 week class in the use of molecular techniques for second year students. Next to the theoretical background, students learn to perform PCR, sequencing and genotyping. They are also taught how to digest the obtained data to answer scientific questions.
In a three week field course second year students learn how to formulate a testable scientific question, design a proper experiment, carry out field research, analyze and interpretate the obtained data, present the data and write a report. https://studiegids.leidenuniv.nl/en/courses/show/56653/Ministage-Ecologie
No relevant ancillary activities