A Tribute to Professor Riks Laanbroek

27-11-2018 Joseph Shuttleworth

Professor Riks Laanbroek is stepping down after 21 years as an Editor of FEMS Microbiology Ecology. Riks was the go-to Editor for handling papers on aquatic microbiology and nitrogen cycling. He also held the position as Deputy Editor-in-Chief for part of his time with us.

Prof. Riks Laanbroek, Senior Scientist at Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Expert in Microbial Ecology

From everyone here at FEMS, we wish to pay tribute to Riks for his highly valued long term commitment to this journal and to the microbial ecology research that it publishes globally.

Personally, I had an early bond with FEMS via the deceased Hans Veldkamp, who was the first Editor-in-Chief of FEMS Microbiology Ecology and also supervisor of my PhD study. My first publication was in the first volume of FEMS Microbiology Letters.

Before becoming a full editor in 1997, he was on the editorial board for 3 years, bringing his total involvement with FEMS Microbiology Ecology to a grand length of 24 years. During his long career, Riks has also held the position of Professor in Microbial Ecology of Wetlands at Utrecht University for 12 years. He is still an active Senior Scientist at the Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), where he has held many senior posts, including 8 years as Director of the NIOO – Centre for Limnology from 2001 to 2009.

Riks gave us some personal commentary to help mark this occasion, and we learned that he can claim some fantastic ‘firsts’ with regard to the FEMS Journals. ”Personally, I had an early bond with FEMS via the deceased Hans Veldkamp, who was the first Editor-in-Chief of FEMS Microbiology Ecology and also supervisor of my PhD study. My first publication was in the first volume of FEMS Microbiology Letters.’’ said Riks. “I always had a very pleasant time as editor of FEMS Microbiology Ecology being able to promote good publications. It was nice to work together with different Editors-in-Chiefs. With two of them I shared a number of research interests, i.e. Ralf Conrad of the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, Germany, and Jim Prosser of the University of Aberdeen, UK.’’

Riks’ particular research interests are in the nitrogen and sulfur metabolism of microorganisms. ‘’Being interested in the implications of microbial diversity for the cycling of nutrients, I spent most of my scientific work on two functional groups, i.e. the anaerobic sulfate-reducing microorganisms and the aerobic ammonia-oxidizing prokaryotes.’’ he explained.

While researching these functional groups in microorganisms, his career spanned the genomic revolution that has forever changed the techniques used to investigate microbiology. ‘’Especially with the second group, I experienced a large transformation in the approach of research questions. Starting with Most Probable Number enumerations of ammonia oxidizers in soils and eco-physiological experiments with isolated species in batch and continuous cultures, I finished with the application of metagenomics and meta-transcriptomics in soil and water samples as well as in enrichment cultures in the laboratory.’’ Riks recounted.

But at no point did the discovery of new aspects of microbiology show any signs of ending, as Riks described. ‘’At the same time the simple world of ammonia-oxidizing bacteria became more complex by the discovery of ammonia-oxidizing archaea and ammonia-oxidizing bacteria that were known before as only nitrite oxidizers.’’

We thank Riks for all the time he has given to FEMS, and we wish him the very best with all his future activities.

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