Dr. Eva Top

…Dr. Eva Top

I am currently a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Idaho. I teach upper level undergraduate and graduate level courses, see courses. I have a research group that currently consists of three postdoctoral scientists, one graduate student, one technician, and three undergraduate students. I am an editor for the journals Plasmid and FEMS Microbiology Ecology, and serve on the editorial board of Applied and Environmental Microbiology

I obtained both my degree in Bio-engineering (equivalent to a Master's degree in the U.S.) and my Ph.D. degree in Agricultural Sciences at Ghent University in Belgium, with Prof. Dr. ir. Willy Verstraete as my major professor. Except for a 17-month postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University, and short visits in other labs, all my research up to mid-2001 was done at the Laboratory of Microbial Ecology and Technology at Ghent University, Belgium. In 1996 I obtained a permanent ‘Research Leader’ position from the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research at Ghent University. In 1997, I was appointed at Ghent University as part-time Assistant Professor, and eventually obtained a full-time permanent position there as Assistant Professor in 2000. After a two-year leave of absence from Ghent University (during which time I was a Research Associate Professor at the University of Idaho) I resigned my position at Ghent University in 2003.

At Ghent University I taught Molecular Microbial Ecology, and gave many ad hoc lectures in microbial ecology and environmental microbiology courses. My research program there was focused on:

  1. Understanding the diversity and horizontal spread of bacterial plasmids in soils and wastewater treatment systems, with an emphasis on using plasmids as genetic tools in bioremediation applications, such as biodegradation of recalcitrant chlorinated organic compounds; and,
  2. Use of molecular ecology methods to characterize the structure and dynamics of microbial communities in soils and water, and how these communities were affected by human activities such as agricultural practices.

Since I moved to the University of Idaho in 2001, my research focus has changed significantly, with a much stronger emphasis on basic questions regarding the ecology and evolution of bacterial mobile genetic elements, in particular plasmids that transfer to and replicate in a broad range of hosts. These plasmids play an important role in the rapid adaptation of their hosts to changing environments. A good example is the current epidemic of antibiotic resistance in human pathogens, which is in part due to the spread of drug resistance plasmids. see current research