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On the hunt for enzymes

Portrait Marion Zaworra

Marion Zaworra is a PhD candidate studying the detoxification mechanisms of honey bees. Equipped with a Master of Science in Biology, Marion Zaworra is now pursuing a Doctoral degree with an Applied Research component at Bayer. This goal-oriented research assistant is investigating how honey bees break down pesticides using specific enzymes.


Portrait Marion Zaworra

AT A GLANCE

“I am very connected to the applied part of my research here at Bayer.
Our discoveries are unique and may be instrumental to further improve
the safety of pesticides to bees.”


Marion Zaworra’s main research focus is on complex protein molecules in honey bees known as metabolic enzymes. These particular enzymes are crucial to the process of breaking down a number of chemicals that bees are exposed to, including crop protection products. Armed with these enzymes, honey bees are able to detoxify some crop protection products they may come into contact with; however, others remain toxic and may lead to the death of bees, if they are exposed at a high enough concentration. At the Bayer Pest Control laboratories in Monheim, Marion Zaworra characterizes and analyzes which enzymes are particularly involved in the metabolism of crop protection products. She intends to establish how honey bees break down certain molecules, what kind of intermediate products – so-called metabolites – emerge throughout this process, and how these chemicals affect honey bees. Zaworra’s work is part of a larger research study, “Bee Toxicogenomics,” under the direction of Dr Ralf Nauen from Bayer (see also “In pursuit of the key enzymes”). In a joint effort with her team colleagues, Dr Cristina Manjon and Bettina Lueke, Zaworra aspires to learn more about how the honey bee body functions so that, consequently, crop protection products can be made even safer for them.

Marion Zaworra

Bees have always fascinated Marion Zaworra. At Bayer, she likes the fact that many facets of her daily activities involve working with these insects: In addition to her research in the laboratory, Zaworra also takes care of the on-site honey bee colonies and studies their health. Here, she counts the number of Varroa mites which have fallen to the base of the beehive and estimates the level of infestation within the hive.

Bees have always fascinated Marion Zaworra. At Bayer, she likes the fact that many facets of her daily activities involve working with these insects: In addition to her research in the laboratory, Zaworra also takes care of the on-site honey bee colonies and studies their health. Here, she counts the number of Varroa mites which have fallen to the base of the beehive and estimates the level of infestation within the hive.

Since 2014, Marion Zaworra has been conducting research in the Department of Pest Control at Bayer as a PhD candidate from the University of Bonn in Germany. Insects have always fascinated the young scientist. At Bayer she is now investigating the effect of crop protection products on bees. Her daily research routine is very diverse: It includes growing insect cell cultures, creating tests for enzymes and bioassays and working on newly-evolving research questions. To merely ‘observe’ is not an option for Zaworra. She goes above and beyond in dedication to the field and is fully committed to making a difference. Even on weekends, she remains completely engaged with her research subject: “Not everyone understands my passion for research; however, my goal is to learn and participate as much as possible,” says the 26-year old. In the Monheim laboratory, she has the resources to conduct the elaborate technical experiments she has long wished to do.

Zaworra enjoys working with her research team. “I am proud to be part of such an important project and truly contribute to the current dialog in the honey bee research community,” the young scientist states. She also greatly appreciates the tangible team spirit and the remarkable support of Dr Ralf Nauen, her advisor. While doing research work at Bayer she also has to attend courses at university to receive her PhD in Agricultural Science under the supervision and generous guidance of Professor Dr Florian Gundler in the Department of Plant Biology and Resource Management. “To explore the unknown and push forward development: These are the reasons I have always wanted to become a scientist,” the doctoral student says. And alongside her drive for research, Zaworra has developed a fondness for bees: “I find everything about them fascinating: how they build and organize their colonies and how they actually live. We can learn so much from insects,” she says. That’s why she has learned about beekeeping and knows how to properly care for them. “Next year, I would like to set up a beehive at home and harvest my own honey,” the entomologist explains. Only when her inquiring mind is momentarily satisfied does Zaworra devote time to other things she enjoys in life, including horse riding, spending time with friends and traveling.

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