Jolanda van Munster pursued her MSc in Biology at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. After studying gene transcription in Bacillus subtilis, she developed a method for gene deletion in a biomining bacterium at the Univ. of Stellenbosch, South Africa. She returned to Groningen to complete her degree by studying a fructanase from fungus Aspergillus niger, and became fascinated by carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZymes).
She learned more about the roles of CAZymes by combining enzyme biochemistry with fungal genetics during a PhD in microbial physiology with Prof. Marc van der Maarel and Prof. Lubbert Dijkhuizen at the University of Groningen. She identified CAZymes important in autolysis and differentiation in A. niger using microarrays, biochemically characterized selected enzymes and investigated their physiological roles using gene deletion and promotor-reporter fusion strains.
As a postdoctoral research fellow with Prof. David Archer at the Fungal biology and genetics group at the University of Nottingham (UK), she then applied this knowledge on fungal CAZymes to a different topic by investigating fungal degradation of lignocellulose, with a focus on the fungal transcriptomic, proteomic and regulatory response to lignocelluloses. She investigated the response of A. niger (alone and together with other fungi) to lignocellulose, with the wider aim to understand how to improve enzyme mixtures for lignocellulose hydrolysis in biofuel production. She studied the effect of carbon starvation on induction of CAZymes using RNA-SEQ, proteomics and enzyme activity measurements. She was involved in a collaboration with the USA Joint BioEnergy institute and Joint Genome Institute to investigated the effect of feedstock pretreatments on fungal lignocellulose degradation, and set up a proof-of-principle study exploring carbohydrate arrays to investigate the substrate specificity of fungal biomass degrading enzymes.
End of 2016, Jolanda has been awarded a BBSRC Future Leader Fellowship to independently lead an interdisciplinary research project aiming to study the biochemical mechanism underpinning the degradative effect of A. niger and its enzymes on a lignocellulose substrate. This fellowship is hosted by the chemical biology research group of Prof. Sabine Flitsch in the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology.