BIOPRO World Talent Campus challenges international PhD students

Wednesday 26 Aug 15


Krist V. Gernaey
DTU Chemical Engineering
+45 45 25 29 70

Didac Recio Garrido is 30 years old. He is originally from Barcelona, but for the past three years he has been doing his PhD at École Polytechnique de Montréal in Canada. Last week, he was in Denmark working on a project that is quite different from the wastewater treatment system he is used to researching. Actually, he did not really know anything about the problem that the Danish multinational company Chr. Hansen was asking him to solve – in less than 48 hours.

Garrido’s limited knowledge of bioprocesses, however, did not prevent him and his team from winning the World Talent Campus case competition where 25 selected talents were gathered from all over the world to solve some real-life challenges of Novo Nordisk, Novozymes, CP Kelco, DONG Energy and Chr.Hansen.

The challenge posed by Chr.Hansen was to figure out whether shifting from the use of expensive powdered milk to the relatively cheap liquid milk would cause any significant changes to their production processes. But, this challenge was not a simple one at all, especially when you know very little about milk.

It is such a good learning experience, because my PhD has to do with wastewater treatment, so it’s not exactly the food industry, but more what comes out of the food industry. And, because my background is not in biotechnology, I have a very limited knowledge of the bioprocess itself. Still, yesterday after the visit to Chr.Hansen I had to try and understand the composition of milk. I didn’t know the food industry before, so it was great to have an opportunity like this” says Didac Garrido.


Getting the soft skills you don’t get as a PhD student

Luckily, Didac Garrido did not meet this challenge alone. He was part of a team consisting of PhD students from the UK, the US and Denmark. This mix of national background combined with the mix of different competencies proved just the right recipe.

It’s a very multi-disciplinary group; we have a microbiologist, a food engineer, a chemical engineer, a biologist and me, a control engineer.  Nowadays, you don’t’ have just one person looking at one problem, [in real life red.] you work in multi-disciplinary teams, so it’s really important to know how to communicate with the other members of your team. Those are the soft skills that you don’t get during your PhD. In your PhD you’re alone most of the time. The greatest interaction you have is with your supervisor and if you’re lucky enough you have two of them. And if you have laboratory work you can talk to the lab technician, but you are basically alone with your thoughts. But in this case it’s quite different. For example, we need to make a presentation for the company. I can add some ideas from a control point of view, but I need someone from microbiology or someone from the food industry, who can tell me for example ‘no that’s not accepted in the regulation of the Food Association in Europe’ or ‘it’s not feasible with such configurations of the reactor’. And that’s the experience you’re getting - you get to know how the industry actually works”, concludes Didac Garrido.


Important networks in academia are established through the project

The BIOPRO World Talent Campus is not only a benefit to the visiting PhD students, the universities are also benefitting from this type of educational programme. For DTU Chemical Engineering it is for example an important way to establish good connections in academia with internationally leading research groups.

“BIOPRO World Talent Campus is an important project because it allows us to come into contact with many students from universities all over the world. In this way, the universities can get to know our work without us having to travel around the world. We get direct acquaintance with talented future postdoc candidates. And perhaps more importantly, our base for recruitment of PhD candidates grows tremendously, as we have until now created contacts with esteemed professors in 15-20 international universities through the BIOPRO World Talent Campus” says Krist Gernaey, Head of the CAPEC-PROCESS research center at DTU Chemical Engineering.

This year’s BIOPRO World Talent Campus ended 22 August after a full week of activities including unique visits to manufacturing sites, team building at Kragerup tree-top-climbing and a conference dinner at the tower of Christiansborg. BIOPRO World Talent Campus is sponsored by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.



BIOPRO is the foundation which aims to establish a world-class cluster in full-scale biotech manufacturing creating innovative and sustainable solutions for future growth. The foundation is a combination of some of the strongest biotech companies in the world and leading research capacities within biotech.

BIOPRO is committed to finding new ways of making biotech production more competitive and sustainable through applied research. We can meet this commitment if we reduce the consumption of energy and raw materials on the one hand and improve yields on the other.

Impressions of the WORLD Talent Campus 2014

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