Introducing Jan Michiels: The VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology’s newest member

18 March 2018

​Last year the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology was expanded with the addition of a fifth lab, led by Jan Michiels. As part of the Center, Jan and his team aim to uncover the molecular principles of bacterial persistence. But more than just this research focus, Jan’s motivation and expertise are also a perfect fit for the Center.

Microbiology with maximal impact
Jan: “When I heard that Kevin was looking for additional groups, I didn’t waste a second to send in my application. I believe that interaction with other groups in the Center, the VIB community and its core facilities
will stimulate all of us to work together in innovative ways and explore new research alleys. Via Tech Watch,
the 20 scientists in my group will be able to test new technologies much faster than before.”

Kevin adds: “The combination of various topics, technologies and methodologies is indeed what makes us strong, and enlarges the impact of our work. Together, we study all things micro-organisms: the way they act as model systems for cells in higher organisms, their resistance to antibiotics, their essential role in keeping us healthy and their impact on flavor in beer, wine, cheese and chocolate.”

A perfect match
Jan’s enthusiasm is not a one-way street: Kevin and the other group leaders immediately agreed that Jan would be a perfect addition to the Center. “We received over 100 applications, but Jan’s was unanimously selected. First of all, he and his team are doing very exciting research, which in the past few years has led to some cool breakthroughs and strong publications in the field of antibiotic resistance and bacterial genetics – this is complementary to our other labs,” Kevin explains. “Secondly, because his lab was already fully embedded within KU Leuven, he was able to hit the ground running.But most importantly, Jan is a fun colleague we all look forward to working with.”

Growing and diversifying
Adding Jan’s group to the center is an important, but not a final step for Kevin. “We will soon launch a call to
attract a sixth group leader. It would be nice to find a female PI, as all our current group leaders are Belgian,
white males. Although most life science institutes are struggling to get female applicants, or applicants from
underrepresented minorities, that’s no excuse, and we are doing everything we can to change this. For instance, together with our HR department, we write the call that women are in the same way attracted as
men and contact possible candidates personally.”

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Research


Jan Michiels

Jan defended his doctoral thesis in molecular microbiology in 1993 and became a group leader at
KU Leuven in 2001. He steadily expanded his team through competitive grants and a growing pile of strong
publications. In the meantime, Jan also served on several research councils and science societies.

Research focus: bacterial genetics, evolution, ecology, interactions and pathogenesis, with a special emphasis on the mechanisms underlying tolerance to stress and antibiotics

Motto: Pour accomplir de grandes choses il ne suffit pas d’agir, il faut rêver; il ne suffit pas de calculer, il faut croire. (Anatole France).