SIF 3rd Cohort Fellows - Marko Verce, University of Ljubljana

Curriculum Vitae

  • Education

2014-2020: PhD in Bioengineering Sciences, Research Group of Industrial Microbiology and Food Biotechnology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

2010-2013: MSc in Biotechnology, University of Ljubljana

2007 – 2010: BSc in Biotechnology, University of Ljubljana


  • Experience 

2023: Postdoctoral research on the microbial interactions in the context of fermented food environment through the lens of transcriptomics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

2021-2022: Postdoctoral research on the impact of maternal probiotic use on the development of the immune system of the offspring, focussing on the gut microbiota aspect, Université Catholique de Louvain

2014-2020: PhD research on the use of omics in the study of fermented food microbiology, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

  • Publications/Research achievement
• The Alphabet of Discord. The Ideologization of Writing Systems in the Balkans since the Breakup of Multiethnic Empires. Balkan Politics and Society Series, Stuttgart, Ibidem Press, 2021 (monograph).
• The Color of Apricots. Language Attitudes, Collective Memory and (Trans)National Identity Construction Among the Armenian Diaspora of Plovdiv., Studies on Language and Culture in Central and Eastern Europe. Berlin: Peter Lang (monograph, in press, funded by a Calouste Gulbenkian Grant).
• “Markets, ethnic cultures, and minority languages: constructing semiotic landscapes of diversity”. In Urban Anthropology Journal 23 (2), 2023 31-51.
• “Preserving and Developing Romani language on TV: Good Practices from the Vojvodina Public Broadcasting Service.” In: Linguistic Minorities in Europe Online, De Gruyter, 2022.
• “Multilingualism, Polycentrism and Exile in Angel Wagenstein’s Jewish-themed Works”, in: Jewish Literatures and Cultures in Southeastern Europe, Vienna, Böhlau - BRILL, 2021 pp. 329-344.
• “Writing a New Space: Written Expressions of Utopia and Resistance during the Gezi Park Protests in Istanbul”, Etnološka Tribina. Journal of the Croatian Ethnological Society, 46 (39), 2016: 94-110.

Research Project

Studying the interactions of bifidobacteria and other microorganisms in water kefir: a path to custom-made water kefir grains?

Overconsumption of sugary drinks leads to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other negative health impacts. Fermented drinks, such as water kefir, are health-promoting alternatives that contain living yeasts, lactic acid bacteria, and sometimes bifidobacteria. Water kefir production relies on pre-existing water kefir grains. These dextran granules host dextran-producing, fermentative microorganisms, and their microbial composition varies between sources. For instance, bifidobacteria are not present in all water kefirs. Bifidobacterium is a bacterial genus that contains many species with probiotic properties and is generally thought to contribute to human health, yet little is known about its role in water kefir and the interactions with other microorganisms there. To ensure stability in the microbial composition of large- or small-scale water kefir productions, to modulate water kefir microbial composition, or even to engineer water kefir grains de novo, an indepth understanding of the water kefir ecosystem and its microbial interactions is needed and knowledge gaps need to be filled.

Therefore, we set three objectives:

  1. to comprehensively analyse the microbial composition and gene expression in a Bifidobacteriumcontaining water kefir ecosystem through (meta)genomics and (meta)transcriptomics, revealing the genes necessary for microorganisms to participate in the water kefir ecosystem,
  2. to categorise social interactions of the bifidobacterial member(s) with other ecosystem members in terms of transcription and growth,
  3. to determine the ability of different Bifidobacterium strains to be incorporated into the water kefir ecosystem as stable members.
This project will bring new insights and thus significantly impact the future research of water kefir and microbial interactions, spark innovation in water kefir production and microbial composition modulation, and lead to new health-promoting fermented drinks on the market.