Back after 10 years thanks to GREEN-CHEM Mobility Grant

(06-11-2019) Sabbatical visit after 10 years abroad made possible by GREEN-CHEM Mobility Grant.

After leaving for 10 years and coming back with the help of the GREEN-CHEM Mobility Grant, Dr. Carol Lin from the City University of Hong Kong shares some reflections on her research stay at Ghent University. She visited some labs and worked together with Prof. Chris Stevens on the ‘Bioconversion of food waste to biosurfactants’, which perfectly illustrates the importance of incentives to promote international collaboration and exchange to lead to breakthrough innovations in Green Chemistry. 




“This year, I was lucky enough to receive the 2019 GREEN-CHEM Mobility Grant for conducting a research visit of one month at Ghent University (UGent) in Belgium in the summer of 2019”, says Dr. Carol Lin from the School of Energy and Environment at City University of Hong Kong. “In fact, it was an interesting experience to see many changes in Ghent, after leaving this place for 10 years since completing a postdoctoral research stint at UGent in October 2009. Ghent has improved a lot, from the more luxurious buildings, to the improved cycling infrastructure. It is still one of the most beautiful, interesting and vibrant European cities that I love the most.”

The purpose of the Mobility Grant is to provide a financial incentive of up to 2500€ to promote knowledge exchange between GREEN-CHEM partners and enhance international collaboration to realize innovations in Green Chemistry. “The main reason for my visit was to continue my work with Prof. Chris Stevens on the ‘Bioconversion of food waste to biosurfactants’”, continues Dr. Carol Lin. “During my visit I worked on the chemical modification of food waste-derived sophorolipids, which I brought from Hong Kong. In addition, I met a number of past research team members at the lab of Prof. Wim Soetaert and some old friends.”

Dr. Carol Lin: “In addition, to my work I also had the opportunity to visit some labs. I started with the lab of Prof. Korneel Rabaey at UGent, who is a research collaborator together with Dr. Apostolis Koutinas for working on ‘Polymer grade succinic acid production from organic waste: the PERCAL project pipeline’. Prof. Rabaey explained his current research interest and he also showed me around his Microbial ElectroCatalysis laboratory (Figure 1).”

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Figure 1. The Microbial ElectroCatalysis lab of Prof. Korneel Rabaey

“Afterwards, I visited the Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (BBEPP), with Dr. Sophie Roelants as my personal guide”, recalls Dr. Lin (Figure 2). “Since my last visit over two years ago, the plant has been expanded a lot in term of scale and equipment. Indeed, the Pilot Plant is something Flemish scientists and bioengineers can be proud of and illustrates that they are among the international top experts in biorefining!”

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Figure 2. Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant.

Finally, Carol also joined an interesting team building summer activity in the countryside, organized by some of the UGent labs. “For me it was a pleasure to meet other professors, such as Prof. Matthias D’hooghe who is one of the group leaders in SynBioC group (Figure 3).

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Figure 3. Team building with Prof. Matthias D’hooghe (L) and Prof. Christian Stevens (R).

“In one of the activities, we were all given several pieces of papers and were asked to write personal messages of appreciation to each other. I learnt a lot from this, since in the Asian culture, quite often we forget to express our appreciation to others and take things for granted.  Indeed, it is a good practice to remind ourselves (as a focused researcher) that we should express our appreciation from time to time, concludes Dr. Lin with some words of wisdom. “Therefore, I wish to again show my deep appreciation for receiving the GREEN-CHEM Mobility Grant to help fund my sabbatical visit to Ghent. As always, I would be delighted to visit Ghent again in near future, maybe at the next RRB Conference in 2020!