The Team

Dr. Cătălin Voiniciuc – Group Leader

Education: Ph.D., summa cum laude (RWTH Aachen University, Germany), M.Sc. (University of British Columbia, Canada), B.Sc., with distinction (UBC)

About me: Throughout the last eight years, I have addressed outstanding questions in the production of plant cell wall polysaccharides. My graduate research in Vancouver (Canada), Jülich (Germany) and Versailles (France) focused on the isolation and characterization of Arabidopsis seed mucilage mutants. This approach identified important regulators of polysaccharide structure and function. In May 2016, I moved to Düsseldorf to lead a synthetic biology team that combined genetic engineering and carbohydrate biochemistry to produce plant polysaccharides in yeast. In January 2019, I started an independent research group at IPB Halle to gain further mechanistic insight into the synthesis of extracellular matrix polysaccharides.

Hobbies: family-friendly activities, football, and exploring Germany



Annika Grieß-Osowski – Ph.D. Student

Education: M.Sc. (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany), B.Sc. (HHU)

About me: Throughout my B.Sc., I focused on metabolic pathways related to photosynthesis and biomass production in response to high light acclimation and carbon dioxide availability in Chlamydomanas reinhardtii and Arabidopsis thaliana. After exploring the influence of training interventions on type-2 diabetes mellitus during my M.Sc. thesis, I decided to rekindle my passion for carbohydrate biochemistry in plants. Therefore, I am happy to have the opportunity to investigate the mechanisms that regulate the elongation of plant cell wall polysaccharides.

Hobbies: sports, going for walks, cooking with friends and watching anime series


Dr. Bo Yang – Postdoctoral Researcher

Education: Ph.D. (RWTH Aachen University, Germany), M.Sc. (Huazhong Agricultural University, China), B.Sc. (HZAU, China)

About me: My research has focused on plant cell wall related studies since my master thesis. I first investigated how cell wall composition impacts the efficiency of lignocellulosic enzymatic hydrolysis in various energy crops and analyzed the rice glycosyl hydrolase 9 (GH9) family. Then I studied novel genes involved in seed coat mucilage synthesis in Arabidopsis thaliana. I will now decipher heteromannan substitution and function using a synthetic biology approach in yeast and Arabidopsis.


Stefanie Müller – Biology Laboratory Assistant

About me: I finished my university entrance diploma in 2016. I was always interested in nature and biological sciences. For this reason, I decided to become a biology laboratory assistant and joined the Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry.

Hobbies: music, sewing, painting and baking


Christine Wagner – M.Sc. Student

Education: B.Sc. Biochemistry (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany)

About me: After my school leaving exam I became a laboratory assistent of biology. I was working in the laboratory of Prof. Dr. Ulla Bonas under the direction of Dr. Johannes Stuttmann. We were looking for nuclear components of the plant TNL signaling using Arabidopsis thaliana as model plant. After three years, I decided to study biochemistry. During my bachelor thesis at the IPB Halle, I investigated an Arabidopsis MATE transporter TRANSPARENT TESTA12 (TT12) which were believed to transport synthesised flavonol glycosides from tapetal cells to the pollen surface. Now I am happy to be a member of the Designer Glycans Lab to study the heterologous synthesis of plant cell wall polysaccharides in yeast.


Julian Waldhauer – B.Sc. Student (Anhalt University of Applied Sciences)

About me: In 2016, I started studying Biotechnology in Köthen. Since the start of my Bachelor studies I had a great interest in GMOs and additionally discovered my affection for laboratory work. I am very glad to be a part of the Designer Glycans research team and intend to write my Bachelor thesis in cooperation with the IPB.

Hobbies: climbing, dancing, cooking


Madalen Robert – Ph.D. Student

Education: M.Sc. (Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg), B.Sc. (Westphalian University of Applied Sciences)

About me: My Bachelor focused on the development of technical innovation based on various biological phenomena. Here I discovered my passion of using nature to solve relevant technological issues. Therefore, I studied molecular biosystems during my M.Sc. in order to understand complex biological processes on a system level to allow their specific alteration for various purposes. Now, I am happy to pursue my passion for the understanding of nature’s work-principles, by studying carbohydrate binding modules (CBM) as tools for designer cell walls.


Joining the lab

B.Sc. and M.Sc. students interested in combining synthetic biology with carbohydrate biochemistry are welcome to inquire via email about projects that are currently available for internships and thesis research.

Scientists interested in applying for PhD or postdoctoral fellowships to join the lab should express their interest via email, including their motivation and CV.


December 2019 Lab Photo – Julian, Catalin, Annika, Bo, Christine, Benita and Stefanie


Alumni of the Designer Glycans lab

Previous group members at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry

Benita Schmitz – M.Sc. Student (2019.06 to 2019.12)
Dr. Mehdi Ben Targem – Postdoctoral Researcher (2019.04 to 2019.10)