Dr. Katrin Hammerschmidt

Am Botanischen Garten 11, R. 3.020
Telefon: +49 431 880-5743
Telefax: +49 431 880-5747

Research Interests

Transitions in Individuality
Evolution of Multicellularity
Life cycles
Experimental Evolution
Host-Microbe/ Parasite (Co-) Evolution

Main Current Projects

  • Division of labour and the origin of multicellularity

(MULTICELL, funding by the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Innovation Horizon 2020 (2014–2020) under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No. 657096)

Understanding the evolution of multicellularity and cellular differentiation/ complexity is one of the greatest challenges in biology. The oldest transition, that of cyanobacteria, has happened more than 3 to 3.5 billion years ago. Of particular interest is to determine the evolutionary processes and mechanisms underlying the evolutionary transition from single cells to multicellular organisms.
This project uses cyanobacteria as a model system to determine whether division of labour may drive the transition to multicellularity by eliminating the trade-off between two incompatible processes that cannot be performed simultaneously in one cell. To this end, the overall objectives are to follow the evolution of multicellularity in real time using unicellular cyanobacteria exposed to different selection pressures, and to reconstruct the order of events that might have happened during the transition to multicellularity in the earliest epochs of life’s history

  • Chronology of multicellularity evolution in cyanobacteria (with Giddy Landan, Tal Dagan, Fernando Tria)
  • The evolution of multicellularity: investigating first steps in unicellular cyanobacterial populations (with Si Tang; funded by a Chinese government scholarship)
  • Trajectories of plasmid persistence (with Tanita Wein, Tal Dagan)
  • The evolutionary transition to multicellularity (with Caroline Rose)
  • Microbial interactions within microbiomes (with Peter Deines)

Professional Experience

2015 – current
Junior Group Leader/ Senior Postdoctoral Fellow
- Division of labour and the origin of multicellularity (Marie Skłodowska-Curie & DAAD)

2009 – 2014
Senior Postdoctoral Fellow
New Zealand Institute for Advanced Study, Massey University, Auckland, NZ
Postdoctoral advisor: Prof PB Rainey
- The evolution of multicellularity

2007 – 2009
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
Postdoctoral advisor: Prof JO Rolff
- Understanding host parasite interactions - a proteomics approach (Wellcome Trust)
- Is fast growth traded off against immunity in insects? (DAAD)

2006 – 2007
Postdoctoral Fellow
Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Evolutionary Biology, Plön, Germany
Postdoctoral advisor: Prof M Milinski
- Strategies of parasites with complex life cycles

Educational Qualifications

2002 – 2006
PhD, Natural Sciences (Biology)
MPI for Evolutionary Biology, Plön & CAU, Kiel, Germany
Supervisors: Prof M Milinski, Prof J Kurtz
- Host parasite interactions in a cestode with a complex life cycle, Schistocephalus solidus

1996 – 2002
Diplom, Biological Sciences
Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (MBA), Plymouth, UK & Westfälische-Wilhelms-Universität (WWU), Münster, Germany
Supervisors: Prof NK Michiels, Dr JDD Bishop
- Reproductive strategies in the colonial simultaneously hermaphroditic protochordate Diplosoma listerianum (Heinrich Hertz-Foundation)