On 1st May 2019 the Executive Board appointed Maria Barbosa as personal professor Microalgal Biotechnology within the Biobased Process Engineering chair group.
Prof. Maria Barbosa (1974) started research in microalgae in 1996 during her Master’s degree in Portugal. Following her PhD at Wageningen University (2003), she gained knowledge via international postdoc positions in the area of molecular biology (ETH Zurich-CH), animal cell biotechnology (IBET Oeiras-PT) and science management (EMBO-DE). In 2008 she returned to Wageningen to work as a programme manager at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research where she developed her research vision in microalgal biotechnology. In close collaboration with the Bioprocess Engineering group of Wageningen University & Research, she developed many large fundamental and applied research projects to innovate microalgae production and to bridge the gap between basic science and applications. Several EU projects were initiated under her leadership and she is director of AlgaePARC (www.algaeparc.com).
Microalgae need only sun, CO2 and seawater to produce many biochemicals which can replace non-sustainable ingredients such as palm oil, fish meal, soy protein and fossil-based products. Production is currently expensive and the technology is still immature, and this is where science can make a difference. Barbosa has shown that breakthroughs can be obtained through integration of basic scientific disciplines. She designed a research strategy based on techno-economic modelling of the whole process to pinpoint the scientific targets in research to reach breakthroughs. This determined her research focus and she is currently setting up an innovative interdisciplinary approach where understanding of cellular mechanisms is integrated with bioreactor engineering; this approach involves the development of improved microalgae strains that can grow outdoors under dynamic conditions, in efficient cultivation systems with minimal energy requirements and costs.
Education and outreach
Innovation and inspiration are key words for Barbosa and she also brings these two concepts to her teaching by linking her research and education. Communication of her research is also important to her. In 2013, Barbosa received the Dutch L’Oréal-UNESCO ‘For Women in Science’ award, and has published several articles in newspapers and scientific magazines. In 2017 Barbosa was included in the book “Inspiring women at WUR”.
The board of AFSG warmly congratulates Professor Barbosa on achieving this important milestone in her scientific career and wishes her every success in her future work.