Berufsfeldpraktikum 2017 - Digging deep into root-microbe interactions

How to raise students and teachers interest in plant roots, even though they remain normally invisible? This was the goal of the “CEPLAS Berufsfeldpraktikum” which took place in the frame of the CEPLAS knowledge transfer project „Research and Education“. Aim of this project is to transfer current research topics into school lessons.

The central research topic of the internship was the influence of soil-borne microorganisms on plant growth and how bacteria, fungi and "primordial beings" (protists) can be discovered and visualized.

In the first part student teachers of Biology participated in a 3-week laboratory internship at the Biocenter of the University of Cologne. During their lab stay, the students cut, stained and measured plant material and analysed it microscopically to discover microorganisms and specialised root organs that are otherwise hidden in the soil. Under the guidance of scientists from the CEPLAS groups of Prof. Marcel Bucher and Prof. Michael Bonkowski and from the Institute for Biological Didactic, their results and most exciting experimental approaches were then implemented in the development of teaching material for high school students (16-18 years old). 

In the second part of the “Berufsfeldpraktikum”, 14 pupils from the Ville-Gymnasium Erftstadt and the Ursulinenschule Hersel got insights into current research topics at the university and received first hands-on experience. The pupils stayed for six days in the teaching labs of the Botanical Institute (whereof two were even holidays!) and were guided by student teachers who themselves gained their first teaching experiences. Experiments were carried out based on the previously developed teaching material, e.g. exploring the root space of peas. 

During this project, the student teachers as well as pupils got insights into current plant science and CEPLAS research topics. For all of them it was an exciting experience to carry out research on their own. As a closing event, the pupils presented their results in front of teachers, classmates and scientists, and additionally in the form of posters in their schools.

So far three practical courses for pupils took place in frame of the CEPLAS Research & Education Programme and about 40 interested pupils got insights into current plant research topics.

The "Berufsfeldpraktikum" in frame of the CEPLAS Research & Education project is offered on a regular basis every semester. It is aimed at student teachers in the 3rd-5th semester. More information can be found on these pages: CEPLAS Research and Education and KLIPS2. Interested students please contact Dr. Mitzi Villajuana-Bonequi (ceplas-resedu[at]

CEPLAS research group leaders who would like to contribute with their own research topics to the CEPLAS Research & Education project please contact Dr. Mitzi Villajuana-Bonequi (ceplas-resedu[at] or Prof. Marcel Bucher (m.bucher[at]

Heinrich Heine University
University of Cologne
Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Forschungszentrum Jülich