Approximately 20 years ago, Dorinde started with her study Food Technology in which she specialised in Industrial Microbiology. This is comparable to the specialisation in Bioprocess Engineering of the master’s Biotechnology nowadays.
How did you choose Wageningen University & Research?
"I was interested in biology, nature, and everything related since an early age. During high school, I started discovering the fascinating world of microorganisms and their use for lots of interesting products.
So that slowly drifted my interest of becoming a vet into studying in Wageningen, where after my master and PhD at the university, I became an scientist at Wageningen University & Research – Food & Biobased Research, with microalgae as the recurring topic. Currently, I am a senior researcher in Norway and the Principal Investigator of our microalgae research group."
"During my study, I have done a research internship in New Zealand, at the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIVA). I was working on bioprospecting interesting microbes from a marine environment.
Also one of the requirements of my study was that I would do a 3 months internship at a company. That led me to Switzerland, for an industrial internship at the company Lonza. Here I researched yeast/bacteria fermentation for the production of a medical protein. I enjoyed this time in New Zealand and Switzerland a lot, it was a nice challenge to start at a new place and develop myself."
Could you tell us more about your work experience after your master’s?
After graduation, I stayed working at Lonza for another half a year on the same project, as it was not finished yet. Then I returned to Wageningen to start a PhD at the Bioprocess Engineering department. This was a follow up of the work I did in my master’s thesis, on the production of beta-carotene with microalgae.
I very much enjoyed this PhD and I found out that research, especially applied research, is really what I like. After the PhD, I did a short postdoc on developing education material for the chair group. I continued working at the Wageningen University & Research - Food and Biobased Research, I was a microalgae researcher here.”
What is your current job? Is this what you always wanted to do? "As I was so long in Wageningen and I enjoyed it a lot to live and work in other countries, I was looking for something new. A colleague told me they were looking for a microalgae researcher in Bergen, Norway. I applied and got the job! So a year later, I moved to Norway.
Now I am a senior scientist, leading microalgae research, supervising students and PhD’s, propose/write new projects and keep an eye on the financing and other project management aspects.
The research is diverse: a selection of new species, strain improvement, optimisation of their growth, upscaling the production process, etcetera. We have a pilot-scale production plant (National Algaepilot Mongstad), where we can produce kilos of biomass per week. Which we use for all kind of application trials in collaboration with other universities, institutes and companies, for example in fish feed or foodstuffs.
I am very satisfied with this job and I like it that we work on applied research. Trying to understand why or how things are working and then apply that knowledge to develop processes or products that hopefully can be applied soon in real life.
Of course, there are always challenges. One of the main challenges in the microalgae research is that we work with a lot of different stakeholders; like the processing industry, government, sustainability analysts and researchers. They all communicate differently, with a different goal in mind.
Understanding each other’s possibilities and wishes and aligning those in a common goal so that in the end all are happy with the project work can be very satisfying."
How did studying at Wageningen University & Research prepare you for your career?
"My time at Wageningen University already helped me in how to approach people from different areas. As the city is quite small and very open-minded, it made it easy to make contact with people from other cultures. Moreover, the study Bioprocess Engineering is a great combination of technology and biology, so that are already two ‘languages’ that you learn to speak.
Wageningen has kept stimulating me to think about nature and sustainability. Being surrounded by other people with this same mindset has formed my personality. My former research projects, my theses and later my PhD in Wageningen, have pushed me in the direction of microalgae research and I still love it.
During my study, I did a board year for the study association for food technology, Nicolas Appert. This was super, I learned a lot about communication, working together, and other important soft skills. The great thing is that during your study you can still try many things, fail and learn from those mistakes without too serious consequences.
In the future, I would like to see our current research group growing to make a bigger difference with microalgae. They can be applied in many areas and have a big potential within the circular bio-economy. I like to contribute to a better and greener world, both with my job and in my personal life."