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PhD students 1-minute-long videos about the goal of their PhD.

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1 | João Nunes

Silica-based supported ionic liquids for the downstream processing of the L-asparaginase biopharmaceutical

L-asparaginase (ASNase) is an enzyme that can be applied as a biopharmaceutical, as an acrylamide reduction agent in starch-rich foods cooked at high temperatures, and as a biosensor. Although widely distributed in nature, most commercial ASNase are from recombinant microorganisms. While its production can be performed through fermentation, downstream processing of ASNase accounts for up to 80% of total production cost. Hence, this PhD aims the development of a cost-effective process for ASNase purification from recombinant Bacillus subtilis cell lysates using silica-based supported ionic liquid materials. Thus, enabling ASNase price decrease and its wider application.

2 | Paulo Brites

The potential of agrofood byproducts to develop sustainable bioplastic packaging materials by blown extrusion

Our irresponsible use of petroleum based plastics is unsustainable, having a negative impact on the environment. Starch appears as a promising alternative due to its abundance in nature, and inherent film forming ability, although starch-based materials present several setbacks, such as having low processability, brittle character, and low water tolerance. The objective of my PhD is to use agrifood byproducts as a sustainable source of starch, and of valuable biomolecules such as lipids, proteins, and cellulose, which can be ultimately used to improve the processability of starch-based materials, allowing them to be processed through blown extrusion, and to generate bioplastics with a higher water tolerance and mechanical performance.

3| Mariana Vallejo; Hélder Batista


The work represented in this minifilm suggests that the natural food industry by-product onion peel (OP) is valued to create a biodegradable and resistant bioplastic that can substitute current plastics used in supermarkets.

4 | Flávia F. Magalhães

Enzymes are an essential tool to achieve a better future

My thesis explores laccase, an enzyme used in the industry. Although filamentous fungi often produce laccase, they can occasionally cause operational issues. In addition, the cost of the enzyme can be significantly raised throughout the purifying process. Consequently, the creation of a new bioprocess is required. With the help of genetically engineered yeast and an aqueous biphasic system, I aim to undertake an extractive fermentation to create a process with the production and purification of recombinant laccase is achieved in a single step. Then, laccase will catalyse the creation of polydopamine, a biopolymer used to coat biomaterials.

5 | Daniela S. C. Bispo

Metabolic markers of osteodifferentiating mesenchymal stem cells

Innovative strategies involving mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have emerged as promising alternatives to conventional bone grafts. However, donor heterogeneity limits the clinical value of MSCs, triggering attempts to use data signatures as predictors of differentiation potential. Because local metabolic alterations seem to be critical for bone regeneration, the analysis of cell metabolism may reveal specific metabolites as markers of performance. Here, NMR untargeted metabolomics was applied to monitor human adipose tissue-derived MSCs throughout proliferation and osteodifferentiation, aiming at searching for osteogenesis-specific predictive markers independent of donor origin and of underlying proliferation. During this brief presentation the main goals, challenges, and impact of this research project were explored. Overall, this work has already shown the great potential of NMR metabolomics to characterize the dynamic metabolism of MSC osteodifferentiation, ultimately enabling the potential discovery of universal biomarkers monitor, guide and predict osteogenesis, with possible translation to in vivo clinical practice.

6 | Miguel Amado Vieira

Development of thermoelectric composites with catalytic functionality

Thermoelectric generators are solid-state devices that convert a heat flux directly into electrical power. This technology is particularly interesting for waste heat harvesting, providing opportunities to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Strategic deployment of high-temperature thermoelectric systems can offer significant thermodynamic advantages leading to the substantial simplification of the industrial process. This project strives to contribute to this progress by focusing on cheap, eco-benign and thermally stable oxide materials and seeks an efficient approach for combining thermoelectric and catalytic functionalities in one system. The innovation objective is to develop composite thermoelectric elements with functionally graded microstructures, which boost catalytic reactions and exploit their thermal effect to produce a local thermal gradient allowing for simultaneous thermoelectric harvesting. Basically, this video explains very briefly the main goals, challenges and impact of my PhD work, where in the video I tried to recreate the places and equipment I’m going to use.

7 | Ana Isabel Bastos Valente

Purification of p53-minicircle DNA using processes based on aqueous biphasic systems and supported ionic liquids

O número de casos de cancro está a aumentar em todo o mundo, havendo a necessidade de desenvolver novas terapias mais eficazes, de ação seletiva sobre as células tumorais e que possam diminuir os custos associados ao tratamento. Este plano de trabalho visa o desenvolvimento de plataformas integradas e de baixo custo para purificar um biofármaco baseado em DNA minicircular (mcDNA) com potencial aplicação na terapia génica do cancro. Apesar da sua relevância terapêutica, as etapas atuais de clarificação e purificação de DNA são complexas, resultando em biofármacos de elevado custo. Para superar essas limitações, sistemas aquosos bifásicos à base de líquidos iónicos (SAB à base de LI) serão investigados na etapa de clarificação, enquanto suportes cromatográficos funcionalizados com líquidos iónicos (LIs) como ligantes alternativos serão usados na purificação do mcDNA. Para tal, este plano de trabalho de doutoramento abrange a produção do mcDNA por meio de tecnologia recombinante, a preparação e caracterização de novos SABs baseados em LIs, a modificação de materiais com LIs, e o estudo da sua aplicação para clarificar e purificar o biofármaco a partir de lisados complexos de Escherichia coli. Após a otimização de ambas as operações unitárias, será testado o potencial de integração das etapas e regeneração dos suportes cromatográficos. Por fim, estudos in vitro serão realizados para avaliar o potencial biológico do mcDNA purificado.

8 |Dayana Guzmán Sierra

One plan, one minute

In this video, I share the main motivation and starting points of my PhD project. I share some general ideas about the objectives and methodologies of fabrication and characterization. Finally, I state the main challenge of my PhD which is related to the possible application of the research in the industry.

9 | Márcia Braz

Development of antibacterial bio-based materials for active food packaging through phage incorporation

The recurrent use of antibiotics, namely in animal production, significantly increases the appearance of multidrug resistant bacteria. These bacteria can cause food deterioration and more important infectious diseases to the consumers. In this sense, it is crucial to develop new approaches that avoid food contamination. Our suggestion is the use of phages, virus that only infect bacteria, to inactivate them. Since phages are sensitive to certain environmental conditions, this project aims to produce new antibacterial biopolymeric films incorporating phages for active food packaging in order to protect phages from environmental challenges and improve their efficacy, allowing also their slower and continuous release. This sustainable approach intends, primarily, to provide healthier and safer products to the consumers, reduce food losses and also offer to food industries a new efficient tool to fight and manage the destructive foodborne pathogens, which is at the same time an environmentally friendly tool.