The Master Degree Programme 'BioSciences'

The Master Degree Programme ‚BioSciences’ is research-oriented and held largely in English. There are three possible directions of specialisation:

1. Cell Biology and Physiology

2. Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution

3. Biotechnology and Microbiology

A central element of the Master Degree Progam is the practical education, in courses (VM1, VM2, VM3) with small groups, in which students are familiarized with research methodology. Lectures and seminars mediate the complementary theoretical knowledge and help develop competence in understanding the scientific literature. A variety of accompanying courses (VM4) allow students to acquire additional skills, including soft skills such as presentation techniques and people skills. Research practicals (VM5) introduce students to research on an individual basis. The Master Programme is rounded off by the Master Thesis, in which students carry out a six month research project in one of the research groups within the Faculty of Biology.

The qualifications acquired during the Master Program will enable graduates to work as professionals in different areas of biology: e.g. in biological research and development, in consulting, or in the environmental field. Furthermore, a Master Degree allows the holder to enter a doctoral program, which takes about three additional years.




Direction 1: Cell Biology and Physiology

- General Zoology (Prof. Deitmer)

- Animal Physiology (Prof. Friauf)

- Plant Physiology (Prof. Neuhaus)

- Cell Biology (Prof. Herrmann)

- Developmental Biology (Prof. Leitz)

- Human Biology (Prof. Kins)

The Direction ‘Cell Biology and Physiology’ deals with functions and mechanisms of animals and plants. Practical and theoretical courses cover the properties and functions of proteins and of cellular transport with a focus on signalling and regulatory processes in cells and during cellular interactions. Major topics are the role of glia cells in the nervous system, ontogenesis and function of the auditory system in mammalians, transmembrane transport and primary metabolism in plants, structure-function relationships of membrane proteins, and differentiation in simple animals. The quality of research, reflected by publications in renowned scientific journals, is translated into a high quality scientific education. In small groups, students learn to use modern methods and instruments (e.g. confocal and two-photon laser scanning microscopy; microinjection and patch clamp techniques; calcium imaging; high resolution protein mass spectrometry; purification and in vitro reconstitution of membrane proteins), and are introduced at an early stage of education into demanding, high level scientific working techniques.

The research area of the Division of General Zoology is Cellular Neurobiology, specifically the properties of glia cells and neurons, as well as their interactions in nervous systems. In particular, intracellular calcium signals, synaptical events, glial transport proteins and interactions between these proteins are investigated. In these projects, we want to uncover the role of glia-neuron communication for information processing in the brain and during development.

In the Division of Animal Physiology, sensory and developmental neurobiology is at the centre of interest. We investigate the complexity and precision of neuronal connections which are crucial for the function of the brain of mammals. Our central research goal is to reveal the mechanisms that allow this precision during ontogenesis of the brain, and during the whole life of the organism. Experiments are concentrating on the central auditory system, which consists of several relay-stations with a large number of excitatory and inhibitory connections. At present, regulatory circuits in the auditory systems of rats and mice are being investigated using physiological, anatomical, molecular and biochemical techniques.

In the Division of Cell Biology, protein sorting processes into and within mitochondria are investigated. These are complex reactions, as every protein has to be routed to its specific destination within the organelle. We employ biochemical, genetic, cell biological and immunological techniques with Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Neurospora crassa as model systems to explore the function of mitochondrial translocases which, in a concerted fashion, mediate import and sorting of proteins into the mitochondrial subcompartments (mitochondrial matrix, inner membrane, intermembrane space and outer membrane).

In the Division of Plant Physiology, transport processes in plant cells are investigated. It is our goal to understand the functions of transporters on a molecular-biochemical (transport mechanisms, substrate specificity, structure-function relationships) and on a physiological level (role for energy balance and plant primary metabolism, for development and adaption events). Current topics of research are ATP transporters of mitochondria and chloroplasts, and vacuolar dicarboxylic acid transporters.

In the Division of Animal Developmental Biology, the regulation of metamorphosis of the marine hydrozoon Hydractinia echinata is investigated. Metamorphosis of planula larvae can be induced experimentally, and allows investigation of communication processes that are required for correct development.

In the Division of Human Biology, the molecular basis of Alzheimer Disease is investigated, the most common neurodegenerative disease in elderly people. It is characterized by a progressive loss of cognitive functions, resulting in dementia. Our research focuses on the role of the Alzheimer Disease key protein APP (amyloid precursor protein) under physiological and pathological conditions.



Direction 2. Biodiversity, Ecology and Evolution

Plant Ecology and Systematics (Prof. B. Büdel)

Ecology (Prof. T. Stoeck)

Microbiology (Prof. R. Hakenbeck)

Molecular phylogeny of lower plant organisms (Jun-prof. F. Kauff)


In the Direction ‘Ecology and Biodiversity’, the diversity of species and biotopes as essential natural resources of life is the object of teaching and research. The generation and maintenance of biodiversity, its importance and biological function, as well as its spatial and temporal formation are central themes. The special expertise of the research groups in Kaiserslautern is on prokaryotes and microbial eukaryotes. The distribution and occurrence of present day species results from ancient interactions of the organisms with a variety of different biotic and abiotic environmental factors (‘natural selection’). Therefore, research and teaching also includes evolutionary aspects. Current research projects are dealing with biodiversity, biogeography, evolution, ecology and survival strategies of extremophile microorganisms, e.g. in polar habits, hypersaline deep sea basins, and anoxic marine environments. Research and teaching involve molecular and bioinformatics techniques, as well as methods of organismic biology and microscopy.

The Division of Plant Ecology and Systematics investigates causal connections of distribution patterns of plants and plant-like organisms, their morphological and specific physiological performances, such as the performance of assimilation and the resulting gain in fixed carbon. A link between morphology and function (functional morphology and anatomy) of plants and plant-like organisms is investigated, creating a feedback to systematic research. Current topics of research are tropical ecology, ecology and ecophysiology of plants, systematic and taxonomy of cyanobacteria and liches, biological crusts, biofilms, and endolithic biocoenoses.

The Division of Ecology studies biodiversity, population ecology and ecophysiological processes in microorganisms and metazoans. In the center of research are functional mechanisms in the ecosystem. For this purpose, we study cyanobacteria, algae and lichens from terrestrial microhabitats, protists from anoxic marine microhabitats, as well as trophical interactions and the underlying recognition systems in protists and animals.

The Division of Biotechnology investigates the taxonomy and biodiversity of fungi, the isolation and identification of biotechnologically useful microorganisms, the production and characterization of interesting substances such as antibiotics and enzymes in fungal cultures, the interaction of fungi with other organisms, and biological plant protection.

In the Division of Microbiology, the focus of research is directed towards the evolution and epidemiology of antibiotic resistance, and the dynamics of evolutionary processes in pathogenic bacteria.

In the Research Group Molecular Phylogeny of Lower Plant Organisms, the main aspect of research is the development of an automated system for the generation and phylogenetic analysis of fungal DNA sequences. We are also interested in the theoretical aspects of multi-gene phylogenetics, esp. in tests for congruence and combinability of DNA sequences. From the organismal point of view, our interests focuses on the evolution of lichens and other fungi.



Direction 3: Biotechnology and Microbiology

- Biotechnology (Prof. M. Schroda)

- Microbiology (Prof. R. Hakenbeck)

- Phytopathology (Prof. M. Hahn)

- Plant Physiology (Prof. E. Neuhaus)

- Genetics (Prof. J. Cullum)

- Cellular physiology/ membrane transport (Dr. I. Haferkamp)

In the Direction ’Biotechnology and Microbiology’ research and teaching focus on the roles of pro- and eukaryotic microorganisms in the environment and exploitation of their products for human use. Current research areas are the mechanisms and the origin of antibiotic resistance of human pathogenic bacteria, the identification and characterization of antibiotics and other secondary metabolites producing bacteria and fungi, the mechanisms of infection and of multidrug resistance of plant pathogenic fungi, and the role of transport proteins in the primary metabolism of plants, and in the translocation of phosphorylated substrates between cellular compartments and cells.

In the Division of Biotechnology, bacteria and fungi are used for the identification and production of high-value active compounds and of enzymes for syntheses and degradation processes. Fermentation and process technology, as well as biochemical and chemical analytics provide students with an up-to-date knowledge in the field. Modern molecular methods are used for the identification of fungal genes that are involved in secondary metabolite synthesis and plant infection. The Institute of Biotechnology and Drug Research participates with its instrumental and personal resources in the education of students.

In the Division of Microbiology, human pathogenic and closely related non-pathogenic bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae and relatives) are investigated by comparative genomics, in order to identify genetic elements that have been transferred between the bacterial genomes. The functional analysis of these elements are the basis for understanding molecular details of pathogenesis, antibiotic resistance and variability within a species, as well as the epidemiology of important human pathogens. Modern technologies for genome sequencing, microarray analyses and associated bioinformatics tools are used in these projects.

The Division of Phytopathology investigates infection mechanisms of phytopathogenic fungi, and the molecular basis of multiple fungicide resistance, with the perspective of long-term strategies for the sustained control of plant diseases. Our main research object is the grey mold fungus Botrytis cinerea, an important pathogen of fruits and vegetables. As experimental tools, molecular, cytological and phytopathologcial techniques are used.

In the Division of Plant Physiology, attempts are made to improve the quality and amounts of essential ingredients of economic plants. For this, transgenic mutants are used in which genes from other plants or non-plant organisms are functionally expressed. The ‘novel’ plants are subjected to detailed analyses of their metabolites. The focus of our group is not restricted to plants, but also to pathogenic bacteria and protists. We try to identify novel target proteins, in particular membrane transport proteins, for active compounds that are active against these pathogens.

In the Division of Genetics, soil-inhabiting Streptomyces spp. are investigated for their ability to produce antibiotics. Many of these compounds are important therapeutic agents in human medicine. The annotation of the bacterial genome sequences have revealed much more biosynthetic gene clusters for active compounds than expected before. By taking advantage of the modular structure of peptide and polyketide biosynthesis enzymes, and with the help of bioinformatics tools, new enzymes will be constructed by in vitro and in vivo recombination, and used for the biosynthesis of novel bioactive compounds.

In the Research Group Cellular Physiology/ Membrane Transportwe are interested in intracellular (organellar) metabolite transport of ecologically important unicellular algae and parasitic protists as well as in the metabolic communication between bacterial pathogens and their host cells. Biochemical characterization of recombinant solute carriers, in combination with physiological and phylogenomic studies allow us to gain insights into cellular metabolite transport and into effective exploitation of essential components from the host cell. Our research involves bioinformatics, molecular and biochemical techniques as well as physiological and cell biological studies with transgenic plants or algae.