I have always had a significant interest in science ever since I was young. Therefore I followed an education focusing on science and mathematics in high school. Convinced I wanted to become an engineer I visited several information sessions and so called “SID-ins”. Here, I came into contact with bio-engineering sciences, which I bluntly described as “The same thing civil engineers do but with living things” for several years. I was immediately fascinated by this concept of using life as a tool for the improvement of society and our lives. I quickly learned that advances in biotechnology in the latest decades had allowed us to do this in a much more refined way than we had been doing for millennia. It seemed like a novel challenging field in science and I decided to take up that challenge.
I first came into contact with archaea during my education Bio-engineering Sciences at the VUB. This stimulated my interest and led to my decision of doing a master thesis studying fatty acid metabolism in one of these “exotic creatures” called Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. I immediately got hooked to the both fascinating and sometimes frustrating fact that not so much is known about these organisms, despite their large abundance in nature. Many of the first archaea isolated were extremophiles, organisms not only surviving but thriving in conditions deemed inhospitable for humans. There was a great interest in these organisms since the cells and their components could be used in harsh industrial processes. Later on, it was discovered these archaea are abundantly present in many habitats, including the human microbiome. However, this interest in archaea for their industrial application has remained a great focus even decades after their first discovery. These possible applications in industry, in combination with my master thesis led to the topic of my PhD research: Engineering of fatty acid production in Sulfolobus acidocaldarius. Even though this seems quite straightforward, my main goal is not (only) to engineer Sulfolobus acidocaldarius into a microbial cell factory, but moreover to expand existing genetic tools and develop new ones to allow society to benefit from the diversity archaea have to offer.