Professor Alexander Jäger became an honorary doctor

Professor Alexander Jäger is an internationally recognized scientist in the field of biotechnology, bioenergy and brewing technology.

Alexander Jäger was born on November 21st, 1957. He graduated with Diplom Biologe in 1983 at the University of Hohenheim, Germany, where he was also awarded the degree of Doctor rer. nat. (natural sciences) in 1988. He carried out parts of his work at the Forest Products Laboratory, Madison, Wisconsin where he was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation by the US Department of Agriculture.

From 1988 to 1990 Alexander Jäger held a post doc position at the Helmholtz Center in Jülich, Germany. Both, his doctoral thesis and his post doctoral work focused on the biological degradation of cellulose and lignin. His first publication from this period “Production of ligninase and degradation of lignin in agitated submerged cultures of Phanerochaete chrysosporium”, is one of the fundamental works in the field of fermentation of filamentous fungi. In addition, he dealt with the immobilization of microorganisms on sintered glass.

In 1990 Alexander Jäger spent 13 years in industry where he held several positions in Austria. At the biotechnological research company btF in Linz, he developed a process for the enzymatic bleaching of cellulose to replace chlorine bleaching. He also developed a fed batch process for the microbiological production of polyhydroxy butyric acid (PHB), a bilogically degradable polyester. The fermentation with biomass concentration > 100 gL­1 in 15 000 L scale was a milestone in high cell density fermentation.

His interest in technology and his ability to translate scientific findings into technical processes led Alexander Jäger into the field of biological wastewater treatment for almost 10 years. Wastewater treatment plants planned by Alexander Jäger purify the water of more than 1 million inhabitants today. The first sequencing batch process in Austria was planned by him. Legendary is the purification of the wastewater of a coking plant, which was contaminated with cyanides, rhodanides and benzene as carbon source with special bacteria.

In 2003 Alexander Jäger was appointed a professor at the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, Wels. Here he could ideally combine his scientific and technical skills in the department of biotechnology and environmental technology. At this young university, scientific research had to be developed completely from scratch. The focus was set on the up­and­coming field of bioenergy with bioethanol, biodiesel, biogas and, most recently, algae technology.

In the bioethanol area, research focused on the pretreatment of raw materials containing lignocellulose. Here too, the entire process was studied to ensure that the scientific findings could later be applied industrially. 8 years ago an intensive cooperation with the working group of Professor Timo Kikas from the Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tartu started in this field of research.

In the field of biodiesel research, the focus was on the production of lipids by yeasts. In addition, the substrate corncobs was used for the first time. The corresponding publication was published in Agronomy Research and frequently cited.

The highlight in the field of biogas was the development of a container biogas plant together with a small regional company.

During his academic career Alexander Jäger has attracted more than 10 million € of research grants for his university. Twice Alexander Jäger was awarded Researcher of the Year of Upper Austria. Not only he himself, but also his scientists received this award. Professor Alexander Jäger is the author of more than 80 refereed international articles. In addition, he is an excellent science communicator with many popular and professional publications and TV interviews.

Professor Alexander Jäger has been the principal supervisor of about 200 Bachelor and Master students, and co­supervisor of several PhD students. In addition, Alexander Jäger headed the Department of Chemistry, Biology and Process Engineering for more than 10 years. He was Vice Dean of Research for 6 years.

Despite the intensive research and administrative responsibilities, he always continued to teach students in microbiology, bioenergy and brewing technology.

Regardless of all these tasks, Alexander Jäger founded Austria’s first experimental and educational brewery in 2008. More than 1000 students from 30 countries of the world got to know the technology of brewing and brewed their own beer. Three beer creations of the “beer professor” and his students are commercially produced by breweries. Graduates of his brewing courses have now founded 4 of Austria’s most successful craft beer breweries. In national and international competitions, the professor and his students have competed for the most prestigious awards. Alexander Jäger is a delegate to the European Beer Consumers Union EBCU and scientifically deals with the production of sodium enriched beer as a sports drink.

The first contacts of Professor Alexander Jäger with the scientists of the Estonian University of Life Sciences date back to 2008 when the PhD student Marti Tutt spent several weeks at Pofessor Jägers laboratory in Wels. Later, Dr. Merlin Raud was employed for one year in the laboratory in Wels. First his scientists and then Alexander Jäger himself have been permanent guests at the conference Biosystems Engineering in Tartu. Alexander Jäger gave two keynote lectures at this conference. His 2018 lecture on beer and health is still remembered. Presenting scientific findings in an exciting and inspiring way is one of Alexander Jäger’s greatest strengths.

In the course of an ERASMUS cooperation a lively student exchange between Tartu and Wels has started. In the last academic year two master theses and one bachelor thesis were written by Austrian students in Tartu. In return, Professor Timo Kikas took their exams in Austria. The cooperation between Wels and Tartu is described in Wels as best practice for cooperation between universities.

Professor Alexander Jäger is an extraordinary personality not only because of his success in research but also thanks to his personal qualities. His helpfulness and enthusiasm, his ability to inspire students for science and technology have made him one of the favourite professors in his field in Austria.

Alexander Jäger will dedicate the last years of his academic career fully to the topic of global warming – climate protection. As so often in his career, Alexander Jäger does not limit himself to theory and teaching alone. Together with a small company from the region, he has developed a process for the production of straws from straw.