February 2018, Volume 19
  1. Welcome New BioZone Members!
  2. Student Spotlight - Sofia Bonilla
  3. UofT 3 minute thesis registration
  4. Moving Forward
  5. PhD employment outcomes report
  6. New Publications

1. Welcome New BioZone Members!

Introducing the four new Biozone Members who joined us this month! We wish you all a brilliant journey during your time with us!
New Biozone Members (left to right): Avinash Shankar Ram (M.Eng, Diosady Lab), Alessandra Biz (Post Doc, Mahadevan Lab), Rahul Juneja (M.Eng, Diosady Lab), Robert Conduit (Visiting Master's Student, Diosady Lab)

2. Student Spotlight: Sofia Bonilla

This month’s student spotlight is on Sofia Bonilla, a former PhD student and Postdoctoral Fellow in the Allen lab. Sofia is now heading to the Netherlands to start a new postdoctoral fellowship. See the abstract below for details on the research done for her PhD.

What led you to pursue a career path in biology and bioprocessing?
I love microbes and the idea of using them (and their tools) to make more sustainable processes and products.

So, what ended up bringing you to the University of Toronto, the Allen lab and BioZone in particular?
In short: love, haha. My husband (then boyfriend) had immigrated to Canada, I was in Sydney at the time doing a Master’s degree and we were going to get married. Toronto seemed the best option for us to start our family. When I arrived, I looked for potential Research groups and found Prof. Allen’s and made the first contact. Given our shared interests in bioprocesses it was a great fit. 

You’re leaving soon for a new postdoc in the Netherlands, can you tell us what you’ll be working on?
I’ll be working in the Biorefinery group at Wageningen University and Research. The group focuses on the concept of microalgal biorefinery, in other words, valorizing everything that is produced in algal cells. As with other bioprocesses, extraction is a challenge. They have found that mechanical methods, while successful at breaking algal cells, make the downstream separation of products more difficult. My project will focus on attempting the extraction in a milder, more controlled way, using enzymes. I will also work on harvesting algal cells using proteins. All with the objective of developing a protein-based harvesting and extraction process.

What would you say was the highlight of your time here in BioZone?
Nothing in particular comes to mind. I’d say that my time in BioZone has been a highlight in my life.

What did you like the best about BioZone?
Without doubt, the people in BioZone. I always felt very lucky for being part of this generous community. There was always someone ready to lend a hand when needed.

Any advice you’d like to give to any incoming graduate students?
Make the most out of this time. Enjoy!! Be aware that it is a great environment to develop different skills.
Anything else you’d like to say to everyone in BioZone?
Thank you to all! Also, if you happen to be around the Netherlands in next couple of years, please get in touch!
Sofia's BioZone research
Synthetic organic polymers are commonly used to enhance sludge dewaterability. However, these polymers are petroleum-derived, costly and can be toxic to aquatic systems. There have been limited studies on the potential use of enzymes for enhancing the dewaterability of sludge and little is known about the mechanisms for such enhancement. Sofia's work investigated the potential of using proteins as conditioners for enhancing biosludge dewaterability. Increased sludge dewaterability results in energy savings which benefits both the economics and environmental impact of the process. Although the enzymes in this study were not found to positively affect the dewaterability of biosludge, enzymes can improve the anaerobic digestibility of biosludge as a result of their enzymatic activity. Treatment with proteases and glycosidases increased biogas yields by 10% after 62 days of anaerobic digestion. Increased biogas yield can be expected to result in improved process economics. The findings of Sofia's thesis improved the current understanding of how enzymes and proteins can change biosludge, and how these changes affect its dewaterability and anaerobic digestibility.

3. UofT 3 minute thesis registration

Interested in showcasing your research to a panel of peers and judges from across the university? Register now for the University of Toronto 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) competition! The exercise develops academic, presentation, and research communication skills. It also supports the development of research students' capacity to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience.

Registration closes on March 15, so submit an abstract now! See the link below for more information:

4. Moving Forward

Congratulations to Andrew Quaile, who just started his new job as a research scientist at Nucro-Technics! He is doing mass spectrometry R&D/method development work for a pharmaceutical contract support organisation. Most of the work at the moment is either method development for peptides, small molecules, or intact proteins for bioanalytical purposes. In the future there will increasingly be small molecule and large molecule analysis for GMP projects as well as biomarker R&D projects that are ongoing that require proteomics expertise. The job will also require other aspects of in vitro toxicology where necessary such as mammalian cell culture, ELISAs and flow cytometry, etc.

5. PhD employment outcomes report

Where are U of T's PhDs employed? From Professor to CEO, Assistant Deputy Minister to Creative Director, they are working in all sectors of society and in 97 countries around the world, according to a new report by the University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies.,000-PhDs-Project.aspx

6. New Publications

February 2018
  1. Poon, J., Liao, Z., Suzuki, T., Carleton, M., Soleas, J., Aitchison, S., Karoubi, G., McGuigan, A., Waddell, T.K., (2018). Design of biomimetic substrates for long-term maintenance of alveolar epithelial cells. Biomaterials science, 6:292-303. Doi: 10.1039/C7BM00647K 
  2. Raj, K., Partow, S., Correia, K., Khusnutdinova, A.N., Yakunin, A.F. and Mahadevan, R., (2018). Biocatalytic Production of Adipic Acid from Glucose Using Engineered Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Metabolic Engineering Communications. 6:28-32. Doi:
  3. MacCormick, B., Vuong, T.V. and Master, E.R. (2018). Chemo-enzymatic synthesis of clickable xylo-oligosaccharide monomers from hardwood 4-O-methyl-glucuronoxylan. Biomacromolecules. 19(2): 521-530. Doi: 10.1021/acs.biomac.7b01642
Please email us if you have something to add to the next edition of the BioZone Newsletter
Copyright © 2018 Biozone Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering, All rights reserved.

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