Dr. ir. Kankana Kundu

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

Professional Experience

2020 – ongoing: Postdoctoral Researcher, Ghent University, UGent, Belgium.

2014 – 2019: Postdoctoral Researcher, "MicroDegrade" ERC project, Helmholtz Research Centre, Munich, Germany.

6/2012 – 9/2012: Visiting Scientist, Leibniz-Institut fuer Agrartechnik Potsdam-Bornim e.V. (ATB), Potsdam, Germany.

2009–2013: Teaching Associate, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India. Assisted subjects - Bioprocess Calculation, Biological Wastewater Treatment at bachelors and masters level

2007–2008: Lecturer, Bengal College of Engineering, India. Taught Process Control and Instrumentation, Genetics, and Biostatistics at bachelors level


2009–2013: Doctor of Philosophy, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, India. Specialized in Environmental Biotechnology

2005–2007: Masters in Technology, Harcourt Butler Technological Institute, India. Specialized in Biochemical Engineering

 2001–2005: Bachelors in Technology, AAI–Deemed University, India. Specialized in Biotechnology

Research Interest

Application of microbial resources

  • Structure and function of microbiome in ecosystem and engineered systems.
  • Identification of key players, novel functional genes and pathways.
  • Physiological adaptation of microorganisms under extreme low energy fluxes and bioavailability limitation.

Sustainable water management

  • Bioremediation strategy development for micropollutant degradation in the aquatic environment/wastewater treatment plants.
  • Design and optimization of novel processes for wastewater treatment with a focus on resource recovery.

Growth uncoupled production of industrially relevant chemicals in engineered systems

  • Proteomics and transcriptomics approach to explore the regulation of pathways in organisms.

Organic isotope chemistry

  • Compound-specific isotope analysis (CSIA) at natural isotopic abundance (i.e., of 13C/12C, 15N/14N) to understand the underlying transformation mechanisms in living organisms and environment.
Major research projects

Postdoctoral research, ERC project "MicroDegrade"

With a strong passion in water research area, I worked as postdoctoral scientist in the  ERC project “MicroDegrade”, which aimed to reveal the bottleneck of the degradation of pollutants at a low (µg/L) concentrations at Helmholtz Research Center, Munich, Germany. We cultivated the potential degraders in engineered systems to mimic the natural growth condition observed in the aquatic environment and identified the potential bottlenecks of micropollutant degradation directly with the evidence of isotope fractionation. Besides exploring phenotypic heterogeneity, proteomics approach was also used to understand the regulation of organisms on the proteome level (expression of enzymes versus transporters) at low concentrations of micropollutants under bioavailability limitation. The results shows for the first time that mass transfer limitation across cell membrane acts as a rate limiting step for the degradation and triggers the physiological adaptation in the microorganisms.

PhD Research 

I did my PhD in anaerobic treatment of high strength wastewater for carbon removal at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, India and also conducted a part of my research at the Leibniz-Institut für Agrartechnik, Potsdam, Germany through a DAAD scholarship. In the first part of the project, we worked on reactor engineering to establish a novel technology to be applied in wastewater treatment plants. One novel hybrid reactor technology was developed and designed (patented by my working group) to be capable of developing self-immobilized microbial granules in fluidized condition. Later, we focused on complex microbial communities targeting 16S r-RNA gene under different process parameters to enrich the understanding of the process for optimal bioenergy production.

Current Research Project


Following World War I and II, a large amount of munition compounds were dumped in the ocean. Consequently, munition compounds are detected in marine environments and draws major attention due to its toxic potential on the ecosystem. The development of appropriate remediation strategies for these compounds requires a basic understanding of processes that govern the biotransformation in the marine environments. While much is known about the physiology of pure cultures, how microorganisms interact within a community under biogeochemical gradients and (bio)chemical stress remains underexplored. This project aims to fill this research gap by understanding the response of different microorganisms in natural microbial communities under different gradients and stress factors such as of toxic, high concentration of munition compounds, bioavailability of growth substrate and electron acceptors. This research will provide key fundamental insights into the degradation of munition compounds by microbial communities. Finally, the derived knowledge will be utilized for the development and application of highly proficient synthetic microbial teams (collaboromes) to steer the bioremediation of  munition compounds.


Selected key publications: 
K. 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, 13, 2236-2251.
B. Ehrl, K. Kundu, M. Gharasoo, S. Marozava, M. Elsner. Rate-Limiting Mass Transfer in Micropollutant Degradation Revealed by Isotope Fractionation in Chemostat. Environmental Science & Technology, 53, 1197-1205.
K. Kundu,I. Bergmann, M. Klocke, S. Sharma, T. R. Sreekrishnan. Impact of abrupt temperature increase on the performance of an anaerobic hybrid bioreactor and its intrinsic microbial community. Bioresource Technology, 168, 72-79.
K. Kundu, S. Sharma , T. R. Sreekrishnan. Influence of process parameters on anaerobic digestion microbiome in bioenergy production: towards an improved understanding. Bioenergy Research, 10, 288-303.
A. Mehrotra, K. Kundu, T. R. Sreekrishnan. Decontamination of heavy metal laden sewage sludge with simultaneous solids reduction using thermophilic sulfur and ferrous oxidizing species. Journal of Environmental Management, 167, 228-235.