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BIOCEB student Martín's journey: from internship to master's thesis defense

One thing leads to another! Let us share great news – Martín has just defended his master’s thesis. Here is his journey!

How did you find your way to TFTAK research lab?

I started in TFTAK in summer 2022 after a couple of emails and interviews together with my colleague Devi. We were studying in TalTech as part of the mobility track of our Erasmus Mundus Master Program BIOCEB for which TFTAK is an associate partner.

How did you start your thesis and where did the topic idea come from?

I started my thesis by contacting my summer internship supervisors. They were very supportive and suggested different topics on filamentous fungi. The idea came from the Eurostars Better Fish project on which I worked during the summer and my interest in bioinformatics and bioprocess engineering.

My thesis was about “Isolation and characterization of traditional tempeh starter cultures Rhizopus sp.”

What is the connection to real life?

Alternative proteins such as mycoprotein are becoming a new market trend and a real solution towards reaching food security with sustainable & healthy foods. Thus, isolating and characterizing promising strains for this application can have a big impact on the food sector.

What did you discover?

We isolated pure Rhizopus sp. strains and got new insights on their growth and phenotype on different standardized conditions. This bought us one step closer to commercial product development that is currently occurring in TFTAK.

How was the thesis journey?

✔️ I enjoyed my time in TFTAK. From day 1 I felt welcomed and quickly settled into the new bigger and fancier facilities. Perhaps the most difficult part maybe has been the transition from student life to a more corporate life. However, this has been more gradual in TFTAK as it is in the middle ground between industry and academia.

✔️ It has been new to me to have meetings with commercial partners about reaching project milestones or with the whole company about performance and organization. Also, to be in a company big enough that not everybody knows each other. At the same time, I appreciate a lot the flexibility to enter the laboratory to carry out experiments, have group meetings to design experiments or to learn and discuss with other colleagues.

✔️ It has also been an opportunity to self-growth. Besides working on my project, I have been able to learn about new topics in food science during the scientific seminars. I appreciate this variety of knowledge that I could grasp about other projects within the bioprocess optimization team or other teams on life cycle assessment, sensorial evaluation, consumer preferences, product development etc. Moreover, in TFTAK there has been seminars and heavy interest on AI, which I believe will play an even bigger role in the next decades.

✔️ From my master program colleagues I have been getting used to working in intercultural teams. It makes everything more fun and interesting. That’s why personally I appreciate the interculturality of the bioprocess optimization team in TFTAK.

✔️ Last, but not least, I love the food & side activities we have! Tuesday “Cake by Colleague”, Thursday FIKAs, Friday after work initiatives, etc. I wouldn’t trust a food company with no eat & chill breaks!

Would you recommend other students to come to do internship/thesis in TFTAK?

Yes, I would!

What surprised you the most in TFTAK?

The facilities and IT organization in TFTAK are surprising.

What next?

I want to see my family in Ecuador after two years being away. After that I know I want to continue doing applied science.

Thank you so much, Martín, for being part of teamTFTAK! Your input is highly valued!

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