Namedr. MG Sterken

Job details
DescriptionAssistant Professor
OrganizationDepartment of Plant Sciences
Organization UnitLaboratory of Nematology
Phone+31 317 484 778
Secretarial phone+31 317 482 197
Phone 2
Fax+31 317 418 094
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Visiting addressDroevendaalsesteeg 1
Postal addressPostbus 8123
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Ancillary activities
  • Lid werkgroup plan van aanpak Ditylenchus - Brancheorganisatie akkerbouw
    Jan 2021 - Present

    De PvA Ditylenchus is een overlegstructuur tussen de brancheorganisatie akkerbouw die overleg tussen akkerbouwers, bedrijven en kennisinstellingen over het bestreiden van het stengelaaltje (Ditylenchus dipsaci) faciliteerd. Lopende (TKI) projecten die mede-gefinancieerd worden door de BO worden hier besproken en resultaten worden gedeeld.

  • id werkgroep quarantaine organismen (WAQO) - Ministerie van LNV / NRC Fytosanitair van de NVWA
    Dec 2018 - Present

    De WAQO is een overlegstructuur tussen Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuur en Voedselkwaliteit (Nationaal Referentie Centrum Fytosanitair van de NVWA), Wageningen Universiteit & Research, Brancheorganisatie Akkerbouw en vertegenwoordigers van het bedrijfsleven waarin de actuele situatie in Nederland wordt besproken ten aanzien van verspreiding en beheersing van nematodensoorten met een quarantaine status in de EU.



Genetic approaches are very powerful tools to understand the role of genes in the context of fitness and selection pressures. The increasing tools, data, and understanding of relevant evolutionary pressures make that population- and quantitative genetics are currently at the forefront of understanding the role of (a)biotic selection pressures on natural wild populations. This for example crucial to understand basic questions about evolution and the interplay between niche and genetic variation within a species. Furthermore, it can also lead to very practical questions, for example: what is the potency of an infestation with plant parasitic nematodes to break trough the resistance genes that are used to control them?

In my research I use population- and quantitative genetics in combination with phenotypic characterization and molecular biology to understand plant-parasitism in nematodes. I work on various nematode species, including the root-knot nematode Meloidogyne hapla, the cyst-nematodes Globodera pallida and Globodera rostochiensis, the stem-nematode Ditylenchus dipsaci and the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. In this research I aim to uncover allelic variation that matters for parasitism. This touches on very fundamental questions: how does parasitism work at a population level? What is the role of natural genetic variation in parasitism? Furthermore, it also translates to very practical questions: can we predict virulence in nematode populations? Can genetic variation inform integrated pest management?

I work at the intersection where data-heavy work is combined with experimental work in the lab or in the field. My team therefore consists of people with bioinformatic skills and/or practical expertise. As the various species require their own approach and knowledge about their biology, I naturally work together with different research groups within and outside the laboratory of nematology. On various projects I also work together with stakeholders such as breeding companies, service providers, and legislative authorities.

Research group:

  • Muhammad Iqbal Maulana
  • Dennie te Molder
  • Stefan van de Ruitenbeek

Expert Profile
Social media
  Mark Sterken on Linkedin

Key publications
Publication lists





For more information see Education page of our website.


I mainly teach within the biology program, both at BSc level (NEM-21306; Ecophysiology) and at the MSc level (YBI-37806; Frontiers in Biology). But also in the minor Biology of Infectious Diseases, where I teach in ENT-51306; Frontiers Medical and Veterinary Biology). Within teaching I often make use of the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and it’s usefulness as a model-species for many aspects of biology.

BSc thesis topics:

MSc thesis topics:

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