Prof. dr. ir. Nico Boon

Telephone number: 
+32 9/264 59 76
Position: 
Faculty staff
Biography: 

Education

  • Master in Bio-engineer Cell and Gene Biotechnology; Ghent University; 1998
  • Ph.D. in Applied Biological Sciences; Ghent University; 2002

Professional activities

  • Head of the Department of Microbial and Biochemical Technology (Ghent University); 2011 – 2014; 2016 - present
  • Full Professor (Tenured; “Hoogleraar”) of Molecular Microbial Ecology (ZAP) at the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (Ghent University); 2014 – present
  • Associate Professor (Tenured; “Hoofddocent”) of Molecular Microbial Ecology (ZAP) at the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (Ghent University); 2011 – 2014
  • Assistant Professor (Tenured; “Docent”) of Molecular Microbial Ecology (ZAP) at the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (Ghent University); 2006 – 2011
  • FWO-post doc position awarded at the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (Ghent University); 2006
  • Doctor-assistant position (AAP) at the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (Ghent University); 2003 – 2006
  • Assistant position (AAP) at the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology (Ghent University); 2001 – 2003
  • Doctoral research at the project grant G.O.A. 12050797 of the "Ministerie van de Vlaamse Gemeenschap, Bestuur Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek" (Belgium); 1998 – 2001

Research

Since 1998 the research has focused on the microbial ecology of soil, aquifer, aquaculture systems, drinking water and activated sludge systems. The areas of interests have been the development of molecular methods (Illumina sequencing, Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis, Fluorescent in situ Hybridisation, Real-Time PCR and Flow Cytometry) for the qualitative and quantitative description of microorganisms and investigations of microbial processes in carbon and nitrogen cycling, novel bioaugmentation strategies for xenobiotics and the bioprecipitation and application of catalytic particles (Pd, Mn, Au and Ag). During the last years, the research interests are focussed on the development of new microbial ecological theories to link the microbial community structure to functionality. The central theme of this research is to understand of the composition, functionality and the limits under which a microbial community can (optimally) perform. At present, there is only limited theoretical insight in the ecology of mixed microbial cultures and engineering practices to manage those microbial resources are fragmentary. The final aim is to structure and optimize the performance of the community in respect to a desirable set of outputs. This strategy is called Microbial Resource Management (MRM).

Research Leadership

NB is team leader and work package leader in major international research programs such as an EU-FP7 “Biotreatment of drinking water resources polluted by pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other micropollutants” (BIOTREAT, 2011-2014), an EU-FP7 project “Unravelling and exploiting Mediterranean Sea microbial diversity and ecology for xenobiotics’ and pollutants” (ULIXES, 2011-2014), an EU-FP7 project “Integrated Biotechnological Solutions for Combating Marine Oil Spills” (KILLSPILL, 2013-2016) and a Marie Curie Training Network “Microbial Resource Management and Engineering in the Urban Water Cycle” (MERMAID, 2013-2017). He is currently coordinator of the most important Belgian research program “Interuniversity Attraction Poles (IAP) Phase VII” of the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office, entitled “Microbial Resource Management (MRM) in engineered and natural ecosystems (μ-manager)” (2012-2017) and the project coordinator of a major national GOA project “Collaboromics”. He is also promotor or copromotor of other 10 national projects (FWO, IWT, BOF) dealing with the microbial ecology of different environments.

Publications and presentations

The research has resulted in more than 320 accepted/published international publications in journals with peer review (A1 + A2). He published in top journals, like Nature, Nature Communications, FEMS Microbiology Reviews, Trends in Biotechnology, PLoS Pathogens, Plos One (6x), Current Opinion in Biotechnology (2x), Biotechnology Advances (2x), Trends in Biotechnology (3x), ISME Journal (5x)…They have been cited alsmost 12000 times with a h-index of 53. He has also seven patents. More than 30 international conferences have been attended, and the research results have been presented in 70 national and international oral presentations. 

Teaching

NB was supervisor of 40 finished Ph.D.’s and is supervising 15 Ph.D.-students in microbial ecology and environmental engineering, and he has supervised more 100 master students at Ghent University.  He coordinates several courses at the Bachelors and Masters level: Microbial Ecological Processes, Molecular Microbial Techniques and Environmental Microbiology. He has organized or co-organized 25 national and international events.

Selected key publications: 
Wittebolle, L., M. Marzorati, L. Clement, A. Balloi, D. Daffonchio, K. Heylen, P. De Vos, W. Verstraete, and N. Boon. 2009. Initial community evenness favors functionality under selective stress. Nature 458:623-626.
De Roy, K., M. Marzorati, A. Negroni, O. Thas, A. Balloi, F. Fava, W. Verstraete, D. Daffonchio, and N. Boon. 2013. Invasion preserves functionality in uneven stressed communities. Nature Communications 4:1383
De Roy, K., L. Clement, O. Thas, Y. Y. Wang, and N. Boon. 2012. Flow cytometry for fast microbial community fingerprinting. Water Research 46:907-919.
Wang, Y., F. Hammes, K. De Roy, W. Verstraete, and N. Boon. 2010. Past, present and future applications of flow cytometry in aquatic microbiology. Trends in Biotechnology 28:416-424.
Boon, N., W. De Windt, W. Verstraete, and E. M. Top. 2002. Evaluation of nested PCR-DGGE (denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis) with group-specific 16S rRNA primers for the analysis of bacterial communities from different wastewater treatment plants. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 39:101-112.