Emeriti (former departments)

Emeriti (former departments)

Since the Institute was founded in 1996, two directors have retired. The first director emeritus was Wilhelm Boland in 2018, and David Heckel became director emeritus in 2021. He heads the Emeritus Group Entomology.

Prof. em. Dr. Wilhelm Boland

From 1997 to 2018, Wilhelm Boland headed the Department of Bioorganic Chemistry and, together with his team, studied plant and insect defense mechanisms and their interactions at different levels. One focus of his research was to examine defense secretions in leaf beetles to obtain information on the biosynthesis, regulation and evolution of these defense mechanisms. He focused on analyzing the molecular basis for the uptake of plant precursors (transporters) and the conversion of plant precursors into compounds required by the insects for communication and defense. For example, he found that the biosynthetic potential of insects is likely to be sustainably enhanced by symbiotic gut bacteria or endosymbionts. Other research focused on the biosynthesis of substances that induce plant defense and the detoxification of plant toxins, with particular attention to any involvement of microorganisms.

Prof. em. Dr. David G. Heckel

From 2003 to 2021, David Heckel headed the Department of Entomology. Research in this department focused on the study of evolutionary adaptations of insects caused by chemical signals. The concept of coevolution forms the theoretical framework in which insect-plant, insect-microbe, and insect-insect interactions are studied. Plants develop special strategies, including toxins, to deter herbivores and thus avoid being eaten. Insects counter these strategies with detoxification mechanisms. The adaptations of microbial pathogens to use insects as a food sources are met by a complex, insect-specific immune response. Chemical signals that insects use to communicate with each other are influenced by interspecific and intraspecific selection pressures. Understanding how genes control these phenotypes is elemental to understanding coevolution and the nature of the current coevolutionary equilibrium. David Heckel leads the Emeritus Group in Entomology.

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