Industrial biotechnology ten years at Chalmers

​The research field of industrial biotechnology is celebrating ten years at Chalmers in March. At first, the division consisted of a few people. Today it has grown considerably, and constitutes an important partner in the field of bioeconomy.

Lisbeth Olsson, you are a Professor and Head of division at Industrial Biotechnology, and you have been involved since the beginning. How does it feel to celebrate 10 years?

–    Great fun, it has been an exciting journey and it’s incredible to work in this field. It is, and has been, inspiring to work with so many people who are passionate about our field of research. Also, the development at Chalmers during these years have enabled industrial biotechnology to form and grow.

How has the division developed during this decade?

–    The division, or research group, was born as I was recruited to Chalmers. To begin with, we were a few people who grew into a group of twelve people within the first year. Today the group consists of thirty-five employees. Initially, research focused on bioethanol production from biomass, today the field has evolved and we are now working to design and use enzymes and microorganisms used to produce biofuels, biochemicals and materials in so-called biorefineries.

Tell us about the beginning!

–    Today we have outgrown our facilities, but when we started there were empty corridors and empty labs – it seems almost unbelievable now! It has been a great opportunity and inspiration to be allowed to build this division from scratch.

Some special memories from these ten years?

–    We have examinated 11 PhD students – each thesis defence is special, since this is the culmination of several years of dedicated work on developing a research area. We received a large grant for “strong research environment” in bioeconomy some five years ago, it was a peak as it has given us the opportunity to work widely within the division concerning a biorefinery concept.
What has the division’s development and growth meant for Chalmers? And for the field of research?

–    Since the area of industrial biotechnology was established at Chalmers, we have been able to become an important partner in the interdisciplinary work of bioeconomy. For example, we contribute within the Chalmers Energy Area of Advance, and Wallenberg Wood Science Center. I believe that the interdisciplinary approach has helped us to be successful and have shaped how we think and work in the area between basic and applied research. We have also recruited younger PIs in recent years, and their competences help to further develop our field.
How will you celebrate?

–    We have a seminar on March 23, and afterwards there’s a party with present and past colleagues. It will be great to reunite.

Text: Mia Malmstedt
Photo: Martina Butorac

Published: Tue 27 Feb 2018.