Anja Spang

Post Doc


Like many children, I have always been amazed about the existence of our planet and all its living inhabitants. Most of all, I wanted to understand where all of todaysbiological entities came from: How did they originate and what is their history? Being born in the end of the 20th century, I had the fortune to study biology in the age of genomics, which enables reading in the “book of life” and thus provides insights into a range of different evolutionary questions. My bachelor studies at the University of Bergen in Norway, inspired me to study microbial genomics which represents just one possibility to decipher fragments of the evolutionary history of life.

Graduate research

I did my graduate studies in the group of Prof. Dr. Christa Schleper, who investigates a broad range of topics concerning the third domain of life – the archaea. During my master studies, I had the possibility to sequence archaeal viruses obtained from a culture enriched for hyperthermophilic archaea and for the first time to analyze genome sequences myself. My doctoral studies at the University of Vienna in Austria (supervision: Prof. Dr. Christa Schleper; co-supervision: Prof. Dr. Michaeal Wagner) allowed me to investigate another aspect within the research field of evolution: comparative and functional genomics of the novel archaeal phylum Thaumarchaeota. I also had the possibility to obtain insights into a genome of a bacterial endosymbiont during an internship in the research group of Prof. Dr. Matthias Horn at the University of Vienna.

Current research

After my Phd defense in May 2013, I had the great opportunity to join the enthusiastic research team of Dr. Thijs Ettema in Uppsala for a post-doctoral position. This allows me to further explore archaeal genomes as well as their relationship with eukaryotes using metagenomics and single cell genomic techniques. For instance, I am currently comparatively analyzing genome sequences of uncultivated novel archaea from diverse sediment samples to obtain insights into their phylogeny, genome evolution (incl. HGT and proviruses) and ecological potential.

Additional interests

On a broader scale, I am interested in a diverse range of additional evolutionary mysteries including amongst others the emergence of viruses, cells, eukaryotes as well as of multicellular organisms. Finally, I have a strong interest in all different aspects of human evolution and biological anthropology.