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Bio-inspired and bionic materials for enhanced photosynthesis

 

Álvaro Escobar

Álvaro Escobar is based at Hoekmine BV (Utrecht) in collaboration with Hogeschool Utrecht. Álvaro was born in Tenerife, Spain, and went to school in Algeciras (Cadiz). He obtained his Bachelor's degree in Biotechnology from the University Pablo de Olavide (Seville), where he worked on genetic modified Pseudomonas putida to control the formation of the biofilm, gaining experience in biofilm and genetic modified bacteria. With this project in combination with other three, called Biofilm Transformers, he participated in iGEM competition 2016. Between his Bachelor and Master, he did a semester internship in the Environmental Biotechnology Department of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Leipzig, where he worked on improving the release of outer membrane vesicles using different stressors. In 2017, he started his Master's Degree in Microbial Ecology from University of Vienna, where he worked on microbial degradation of jellyfish detritus matter, gaining experience in fluorescence microscopy.

Arianna Rizzo

Arianna Rizzo is a Marine Biologist interested in the sustainable use of marine natural resources. In 2019 she obtained her MSc in Marine Biology at the Polytechnic University of Ancona, in Italy. Her MSc thesis focused on the improvement in the cultivating practices of Haematococcus pluvialis. This green microalgae is predominantly grown for its production of astaxanthin, which is of commercial interest to the nutraceutical industry for its antioxidant properties.  After working in Norway for 7 months at the NIBIO Research Institute, on the industrial production of microalgae, she joined the RSBE group at the University of Nantes.  During the BEEP project she will examine diatom biophotonics, investigating the physical structure in microphytobenthic communities. This will bring a greater understanding of the light environment inside artifical diatom biofilms and its impact on photosynthesis.  

Ariel Garcia Fleitas

 

Ariel obtained his MSc degree in Radiochemical Sciences in the Highest Institute of Technology and Applied Sciences (InSTEC), Cuba, where he worked on Computational Chemistry obtaining radiopharmaceutical candidates to cancer diagnosis using Positron Emission Tomography (PET). He then joined the research group of Prof Gugliermo Lazani and Prof Cosimo D’Andrea to work on the topic “Photosynthetic processes in algae via time-resolved spectroscopy” at the POLIMI/IIT. The main objective of his project is to understand the basis of photo-protection mechanisms in Chondrus crispus and to study the interaction of light sensitive materials with diatoms.

Cesar Vicente Garcia

 

Cesar Vicente obtained a B.Sc in Chemistry from the University of Navarre in 2016 and in Biochemistry in 2018. He followed a two-year Research Training Program in genetic modification of T-Lymphocytes for adoptive T-Cell therapy at CIMA (Pamplona), under the supervision of Dr. Sandra Hervas-Stubbs. During his studies, he developed an interest in understanding how biology works at a chemical level, so in 2019 he completed a M.Sc in Organic Chemistry at the Autonomous University of Madrid. There, he worked in the Tortosa group, under the supervision of Dr. Ignacio Colomer, on the characterization of amphiphilic molecules and their supramolecular structures, in pursuit of studying their autocatalytic activity in connection with the origin of life.

He is now based at the University of Bari Aldo Moro, in Italy, where he is enrolled in a PhD program within the ITN BEEP, under the supervision of Prof. Gianluca Maria Farinola. In a biomimetic approach, Cesar aims to biotechnologically produce functional biomaterials by exploiting structures present in photosynthetic microorganisms. During the BEEP project he will focus on the functionalization of silica shells of diatoms with organic molecules as nanostructured silica for application in photonics and biomedicine.

Maria Murace

 

Maria grew up in a small town in the south of Italy and moved to Pisa for her academic studies. She was awarded a BSc degree in Physics in 2016 and she obtained a MSc degree in Physics of Matter at University of Pisa in December 2019. For her final Thesis project, Maria worked on the fabrication and characterization of a light-responsive soft actuator at NEST laboratories of Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa.

On October 2020 Maria will join the Bio-Inspired Photonics group at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Dr. Silvia Vignolini. In the BEEP project, she will investigate the light propagation and harvesting in various seaweeds and other marine organisms, and how they adapt to external factors such as light conditions.

Michele Pompilio

 

Michele was born and raised in Foggia, a city in southern Italy, and later moved to Tuscany, where he obtained his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Physics at the University of Pisa. During his studies, he developed a fascination for novel materials, which heavily influenced his choice of topic for his theses. Both of them, in fact, revolved around a multi-scale study of the optical properties of a thermochromic polymeric material, with measurements taken by means of near-field and confocal microscopy.Michele is now based at the University College London where he is part of the EU Horizon 2020 ITN “Bio-inspired and bionic matErials for Enhanced Photosynthesis” (BEEP), working on a project titled “Exploitation of bio-inspired light-management strategies” under the supervision of Prof Franco Cacialli. The aim of this project is to study marine organisms which have evolved interesting photonic structures and to apply this knowledge to the development of new bio-inspired materials and systems.

 

 

 

Margot Minju Arnould-Pétré

 

Margot grew up in France and completed a BSc in 2016 with a double major in Life Sciences at Université Pierre et Marie Curie and in History at Université Paris Sorbonne, including an erasmus year at University College London, UK. She later continued her education with the International Master in Marine Biological Resources (IMBRSea) during which she gained a sound knowledge of applied marine ecology and conservation, attending different universities around Europe, participating in summer schools, and conducting short-term projects. She graduated in September 2019, following the completion of her Master Thesis focused on building a dynamic population model for a species of sea urchin endemic to the Kerguelen Plateau (Southern Ocean) confronted to environmental changes.

Margot Minju is now part of the Bio-Inspired and Bionic Materials for Enhanced Photosynthesis (BEEP) project. Based in the Natural History Museum London under the supervision of Prof. Juliet Brodie, her work will focus on researching structural color, the physical mechanism behind the iridescence of some macroalgae. By looking into optical responses in relation to the morphology, photophysiology, phylogeny and microbiome of the seaweeds, she will try to understand how structural colour is used as a light-management mechanism by these organisms.

 

 

Gabriel Ferreira

 

Gabriel grew up in France and graduated at the University of Nantes. He obtained a BSc in Environmental Biology in 2018 and a MSc in Marine Ecosystems and Bioproduction in 2020. He did several internships at the University of Aveiro, in Portugal, to study photosynthetic sacoglossan sea slugs. In Aveiro, he developed a special interest in studying associations between alga and animal in marine symbiosis, and particularly on light management by marine organisms for photosynthetic purposes. His master thesis consisted in the in vivo quantification of the chlorophyll a content in the kleptoplastidic sea slug Elysia timida, using remote sensing techniques such as spectrometry, fluorescence measurement and digital photography.

Starting in September 2020, within the Bio-inspired and bionic materials for enhanced photosynthesis (BEEP) project, Gabriel will investigate the role of fluorescent host pigments for photosynthesis and optics in corals, at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, under the supervision of prof. Michael Kühl. During the project, He will characterize the optical properties and model the coral light field, and also study photosynthesis and behavior in intact corals. The goal of the project is to unravel the mechanisms whereby fluorescent host pigments affect photosynthetic efficiency in corals.

Yomki Perez

 

Yomki was born in the city of Manila in the Philippines. At a very young age, she started joining international research exhibitions including ITEX’11 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the International Sustainable World Project Olympiad in Texas, USA, where she bagged bronze and gold medals. Yomki then pursued her BSc in Chemistry at the University of the Philippines (UP) where she worked on the synthesis of compounds for organic photovoltaics. She finished her MSc in Chemistry at the Ateneo De Manila University where she researched on metal-organic frameworks for drug delivery. After obtaining her degree, Yomki completed several internships in Japan at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology and Kyoto University, which gave her an opportunity to work on organic synthesis for photonic applications. She also worked for the UP-UCSF joint project as a researcher screening hundreds of plant materials for antimalarial drug leads.

 

In November 2020, Yomki will be joining the BEEP network at the University of Milano, Italy under the supervision of Prof. Luisa De Cola where she will work on the synthesis of bio-inspired breathing hydrogels for self-sustaining bio-photoreactors.