Prof. dr. ir. Kankana Kundu

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


  • 1.01.2009 – 9.11.2013    Doctor of Philosophy, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India Specialised in Environmental Biotechnology
  • 1.07.2005 – 30.06.2007    Masters in Technology, Harcourt Butler Technological Institute, India Specialised in Biochemical Engineering
  • 1.07.2001 – 30.06.2005    Bachelors in Technology, AAI–Deemed University, India Specialised in Biotechnology

Professional Activity

  • 1.02.2024– current    Assistant ProfessorWork Leader, FED-tWIN-BELSPO, Ghent University & RBINs, Belgium.
  • 1.08.2023 – 31.12.2023    Scientific Collaborator, MiCE group, Ghent University, Belgium.
  • 14.02.2020 – 31.07.2023    Postdoctoral Researcher, "DisArm" FWO-SBO project, Ghent University, Belgium.
  • 15.08.2014 – 30.11.2019    Postdoctoral Researcher, "MicroDegrade" ERC project, Helmholtz Research Centre, Munich, Germany
  • 1.06.2012 – 31.08.2012    Visiting Scientist, Leibniz-Institut fuer Agrartechnik Potsdam-Bornim e.V. (ATB), Potsdam, Germany
  • 1.01.2009 – 30.12.2013    Teaching Associate, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India
  • 1.08.2007 – 30.11.2008    Lecturer, Bengal College of Engineering, India.


My research aims to foster innovations in the field of bioremediation of different pollutants in both natural (focus on aquatic environments, especially in marine ecosystems) and engineered systems. To achieve this aim, I target elucidation of microbial community dynamics at the macroscale and microlevel changes in proteome along with modeling to capture the key microorganism steering the process. My PhD in Environmental Biotechnology, where I worked closely with chemical engineers and molecular microbiologists and my training as a biochemical engineer provide me with a strong base to bridge different scientific disciplines.

Since 2014 my research has focused on the degradation of different pollutants in the aquatic environment. My postdoctoral research at Helmholtz Research Centre, Munich, Germany (2014 -2019, ERC project "MicroDegrade") aimed to find out the answer to the frequent occurrence of chemical contaminants in the aquatic environment and involved the application of isotope fractionation to pinpoint the bottleneck of degradation. Experiments were performed to mimic the natural growth condition observed in the aquatic environment with the first-time cultivation of biodegraders under oligotrophic conditions. The results of the project show the on-set of mass transfer limitation through cell membrane followed by the physiological adaptation of the microorganisms as revealed by proteomics. My postdoctoral research at CMET ( FWO- SBO project, DisArm) aimed to explore the degradation potential of the indigenous microbial community at munition dumpsites and shipwrecks with cutting-edge analytics. This project showed for the first time the rapid degradation of hard-to-degrade warfare agent - explosive, tri-nitro-toluene by specialist microorganisms present at the contaminated site.

My current research (ROPSAM project funded by BELSPO, Belgium, 2024-2034) focuses on developing microbial management plans for contaminants in the North Sea region. With a strong collaboration between UGent and RBINs ( ECOCHEM Group), I aim to develop smart monitoring strategy and clean-up technology for pollutants. This will be achieved by exploring interaction between different microbial groups and underlying processes – key players and degradation pathways.

Teaching and supervision

At Ghent University, I am currently a co-lecturer of Environmental Microbiology. Before joining PhD, I worked as a lecturer and taught Genetics, Biostatistics and Process Control and Instrumentation to undergraduate students. During my PhD I worked as a teaching associate and took part in the subjects - Bioprocess Calculation, Biological Wastewater Treatment at the bachelors and masters level. I have experience in counseling/supervising PhD students (7) and masters students (9).

International Mobility

During my PhD I had a research stay at ATB, Potsdam, Germany ( 3 months through DAAD scholarship). I spent five years at Helmholtz Research Center, Munich, Germany, for my postdoctoral research. Since 2020, I have been continuing my research activities at CMET, Ghent University, Belgium.

Key Publications

  • K. Kundu*, J. Van Landuyt, V. Mattelin, B. Martin, M. Neyts, K. Parmentier, N. Boon. Enhanced removal of warfare agent tri-nitro-toluene by a Methylophaga-dominated microbiome. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2023, 190,
  • Kundu*, S. Marozava, B. Ehrl, J. Merl-Pham, C. Griebler, M. Elsner. Defining lower limits of biodegradation: atrazine degradation regulated by mass transfer and maintenance demand in Arthrobacter aurescens TC1. The ISME Journal, 2019, 13, 2236-2251.
  • Kundu*, N. Weber, C. Griebler, M. Elsner. Phenotypic heterogeneity as key factor for growth and survival under oligotrophic conditions. Environmental Microbiology, 2020, 22, 3339-3356.
  • Kundu*, A Melsbach, B. Heckel, S. Schneidemann, D. Kanapathi, S. Marozava, J. Merl-Pham, M. Elsner. Linking Increased Isotope Fractionation at Low Concentrations to Enzyme Activity Regulation: 4-Cl Phenol Degradation by Arthrobacter chlorophenolicus A6. Environmental Science & Technology, 2022, 56, 3021–3032.
  • Van Landuyt, K. Kundu, S. Van Haelst, M. Neyts, K. Parmentier, M. De Rijcke, N. Boon. 80 years later: Marine sediments still influenced by an old war ship. Frontiers in Marine Science, 2022, 1973.

Invited talk

  • 2019 TransCon2019, Ascona, Switzerland. An interplay between mass-transfer limitation and physiological adaptation determines the turnover of organic micropollutants in the Environment. (Keynote speaker) University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany. Defining the lowest limit of organic pollutants biodegradation in the Environment.