Courtney W Stairs

Courtney W Stairs

Associate Senior Lecturer

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I’m interested in understanding how microbial eukaryotes – a.k.a ‘protists’ – have evolved to thrive in low-oxygen environments.

Low-oxygen environments are important ecosystems that host diverse microbial communities. The interactions between these microbes can have major environmental impacts to global geochemical carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycles. Moreover, the interactions between these microbes in the anaerobic digestive tracts of animals can have major health and veterinary consequences.

Living without oxygen can be challenging. To survive in such environments, some organisms work together using metabolic syntrophy – a type of mutualistic symbiosis where there is a metabolic division of labour amongst individuals in a community. We know that metabolic syntrophy is common among anaerobic prokaryotes, but less is known about the role of syntrophy in the survival of microbial eukaryotes in these environments.

My research programme will discover and characterize protist:microbe interactions from diverse anaerobic environments including anoxic marine and freshwater sediments and the animal gut.

Our group is a collection of researchers interested in both bioinformatics and microbiology.  Our current team is made up of: 

  • Mara Vizitiu is a master’s student in bioinformatics at Lund University. She is currently developing bioinformatic tools to predict quinone biosynthesis strategies in anaerobic eukaryotes as part of her Master’s thesis.
  • Phillip (Xuran) Zhao is a Master’s student in bioinformatics at Lund University. He is currently developing a phylogenetic tree annotation tool as part of his Master’s thesis.

  • Tuğba Nur Atalay is a second-year undergraduate student majoring in Molecular Biology and Genetics visiting the lab for summer 2021.

  • Karla Aguilera is a doctoral candidate at Lund University aimed at studying protist:prokaryote interactions.

Check out our lab webpage at or




UKÄ subject classification

  • Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  • Bioinformatics and Systems Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Microbiology


  • Protist
  • Mitochondrion
  • Eukaryotic evolution
  • Anaerobic
  • Archaea
  • Syntrophy
  • metabolism


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