Clodagh Carr, a final year SSPC PhD student at University College Cork offers insight on her recent academic secondment with Peter Westh’s group at the Technical University of Denmark.
“This placement provided insight into both academia and industry, and nicely demonstrated how to strengthen the ties between them.”
I am a final year PhD candidate in Prof. Alan Dobson’s environmental microbiology group at University College Cork. My research is focused on enzymes from marine bacteria with potential use in biocatalysis and biodegradation applications. In particular, we are investigating marine polyesterases, which are versatile enzymes that are of interest for biological recycling, sustainable chemical synthesis, and polymer modifications.
For my international secondment, I was based in Prof. Peter Westh’s group in the Section for Protein Chemistry and Enzymology at the Technical University of Denmark. The Westh group specialise in the biochemical characterisation and kinetic analysis of enzymes that catalyse industrially relevant reactions, especially those involving the breakdown of complex substrates such as lignocellulose and synthetic polymers. I also had the opportunity to initiate collaboration with a team in Novozymes, world leader in biosolutions.
Here, I received excellent training in enzyme production and purification as well as their recently developed test systems for the characterisation of plastic-degrading enzymes. This work aligned nicely with my PhD project, but the additional benefit of spending time in a centre that is largely dedicated to enzyme biochemistry provided invaluable insight into the scope of such research.
In Denmark, and particularly at DTU, the biggest difference was probably the emphasis on process and system optimisation. That said, while I will definitely take inspiration from the Danish approach to work and life, I also learnt the full meaning of “faraway hills are greener”.