Our group is closely connected to the Beil Lab and the Katsonis group, please check out their website. If you are interested in sustainable redox chemistry, contact Dr. Sebastian Beil directly.

PhD Students

Marina Karsakova

Marina Karsakova earned her BSc degree in Chemical Engineering from the Saint Petersburg State Institute of Technology in Russia. During this time, her thesis project focused on recycling internal waste from polymer packaging production in close collaboration with the R&D Department of Klöckner Pentaplast Rus Corporation. Subsequently, Marina completed her Master’s degree at the Department of Physics at ITMO University, where her research projects aimed to develop a combined method for fabricating colloidal solutions of optically resonant nanoparticles and their self-assembly. Marina began her PhD studies in the M. Lerch group in April 2023. Her research project centers on the scalable fabrication of biobased stimuli-responsive supraparticles.

Foteini Trigka

Foteini Trigka obtained her BSc degree in Chemistry in 2018 and her MSc in Organic Chemistry in 2020, both at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. During her bachelor’s thesis, she developed novel organic compounds to examine their use as epoxidation catalysts. In her master’s, she was involved in the preparation of hydroxamic acids and study of their catalytic activity in organocatalytic oxidation reactions. Both projects were carried out under the supervision of Assoc. Prof. C.G. Kokotos. In August of 2022, she joined the Lerch research group for a PhD working on patterned chemical communication cascades. As for hobbies, if there’s adventure, count me in!

Jarne de Jong

Jarne de Jong was born in Borger in 1995. He obtained his BSc degree in Chemistry in 2019, and afterwards his MSc degree in Chemistry in 2021, both at the University of Groningen. During his Bachelor’s he performed research on the self-assembly of amino acid-based low molecular weight hydrogelators. In his Master’s he performed research towards asymmetric catalysis in low molecular weight gelators. Both projects were performed under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Wesley Browne. Afterwards he performed a research internship at Philips Domestic Appliances Drachten. Jarne started in January 2022 as the first student within the Lerch research group working on synthetic reaction cascades embedded in soft materials.

MSc Students

Pepijn Rang

Pepijn Rang obtained his BSc degree in 2021 at the University of Groningen. He concluded his Bachelor’s degree with a research project supervised by Dr. Johannes Klein called “Oxygen atom transfer from gold (III) hydroxides: on the role of the central gold atom”. After this computational research was finished, he started his MSc studies also at the University of Groningen. Here he joined the Lerch Group for his first research project in August 2022, working on multi-stimuli-repsonive soft materials and their 3D printing.

BSc Students

Tushar Narayan Singh

Tushar is currently pursuing his bachelors in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Groningen. He joined the Lerch Group in April 2023, in order to work on his bachelor thesis focusing on intelligent soft actuators. He is interested in biomimetic and stimuli responsive polymers as he chose the specialisation track on ‘Biomaterials Science and Engineering’. He is especially inclined towards data science and modelling projects and is also currently working as a student volunteer at Kamperman Lab focusing on preserving the longevity of flexible, conductive polymers.

Principal Investigator

Michael Lerch

  • Assistant Professor Functional Molecular Materials and Surfaces (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)
  • Postdoctoral Research (NWO RUBICON fellow) in bio-inspired materials sciences with Prof. Joanna Aizenberg (Harvard University, WYSS Institute)
  • Ph.D. in Synthetic Organic & Photochemistry with Prof. Ben L. Feringa (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)
  • B.Sc. & M.Sc. in Interdisciplinary Sciences (ETH Zürich)
  • Awards : Wierenga-Rengerink Prize (best University of Groningen Ph.D. thesis in 2018), Backer-KNCV Prize (best organic chemistry Ph.D. thesis in the Netherlands in 2018), NWO VENI Grant 2020).

Michael’s research builds on extensive cross-disciplinary expertise in organic synthesis, photo- and supramolecular chemistry, stimuli-responsive soft materials, nano/microfabrication, as well as bio-inspired engineering approaches. Originally Swiss, Michael studied Interdisciplinary Sciences at ETH Zurich (Switzerland) with stints to the University of Cambridge (UK) working on total synthesis and the California Institute of Technology (US) working on Wacker-type oxidations. Subsequent Ph.D. studies (cum laude) at the University of Groningen with Prof. Feringa focussing on photopharmacology and investigating the photoswitching mechanism of a new class of photoswitches, so-called donor-acceptor Stenhouse adducts (DASAs). Thanks to a NWO Rubicon fellowship, Michael could pursue postdoctoral research with Prof. Joanna Aizenberg at Harvard University and the WYSS Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering (US) working on bio-inspired elastomers, with a particular focus on equipping such materials with chemical self-regulation capabilities. He is fascinated by nature’s materials and combines his expertise in organic synthesis, supramolecular- and photochemistry with engineering approaches to create hybrid materials with the ability to self-regulate, coordinate their action and communicate.

Part of why Michael loves being a scientist, is to bring people together to work on fascinating projects and to encourage students to forge meaningful collaborations across national, cultural, and disciplinary boundaries. Michael is also active in science communication and passionate about creating spaces for meaningful interactions, where we can explore and debate contested ideas and expand our horizons. In this context, he has been organizing informal philosophy salons in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the US.

Institutional Support

We thank all technical staff from the Stratingh Institute for Chemistry, the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and the University of Groningen for their relentless support and enthusiasm.


Ruichen Zhang

Ruichen Zhang obtained her BSc in Polymer Materials and Engineering at Sichuan University (Sichuan, China) in 2019. During her Bachelor’s study, she completed her graduation project on the degradation property of water-based polyurethane for brain tissue engineering. Afterward, she pursued her master’s study in Chemistry (Advanced Materials) at the University of Groningen. Under the supervision of Prof. Patrick van Rijn, she finished her first master project with the topic of in vitro blood vessel models for pre-clinical testing purposes. In March 2022, she joined the Lerch lab for her second master project, working on the multiple-stimuli-responsive soft materials based on the snap-through instabilities.

In Marh 2023, Ruichen joined the van Rijn group at the UMCG in Groningen.