Nov 26

Fiberight placement – Maria Ramos Suarez

Employment in Fiberight – 30/09/2019 to 25/11/2019

written by Maria Ramos Suarez

Being part of the CDT-SIS gave me and other PhD students the opportunity to take part in interdisciplinary projects in collaboration with industries. I am very honoured to have started this PhD studentship which is partially funded by Fiberight Ltd. Fiberight’s aim is to contribute to the so called ‘circular economy’ by converting municipal solid waste into valuable products, such as recyclables, biogas and platform sugars. These sugars can then be used to produce fermentation products such as biofuels and other renewable chemicals. Throughout my studies (three years so far) I had plenty of chances to meet with directors and other members of staff and learn about their process and the objectives of the company. Equally, the Fiberight team learned about my research work and my capabilities as a scientist. This close relationship eventually brought me the opportunity to do a placement with them in the pilot plant in Southampton.

Pilot Plant team

During my placement I dedicated my time to feed the anaerobic digester, collect and analyse samples, and set up enzyme hydrolysis experiments for sugar generation. Working in the pilot plant allowed me to understand the dynamics of industrial research and team work, which is rarely learned doing a PhD. My previous laboratory training at the University of Southampton really came in handy and I quickly caught up with the analytical techniques and experimental methodology. Of course, there were challenges too! Learning the logistics of a sophisticated process was difficult. In this sense, I learned communication with my team members was really important. The other challenge, of course, was handling large amounts of waste. It requires bravery and all sorts of personal protective equipment.
What I like the most about Fiberight is the continuous search for improvement. In partnership with Novozymes, they continuously test new enzymes and products to increase hydrolysis yields. Additionally, new conditions are applied every other month to the anaerobic digester to test biogas productivities.
I am very thankful to have been offered this placement and I hope after I graduate Fiberight and I continue the relationship, both professionally and personally.