Ana Rios Miguel

Ana Ros Miguel portrait
I would like to work in a company where I can help to make a difference using smart biotechnological applications.
Ana Rios Miguel
Country of previous education
Current role
PhD student Microbiology
Previous education
Biotechnology at the University of Salamanca

Last September, microbiologist Ana Rios Miguel obtained her PhD degree at Radboud University in Nijmegen. Now she’s looking for a job in which she can apply her knowledge to practical and smart improvements with regard to filtering waste water using microbes, such as bacteria.

Ana Rios Miguel studied Biotechnology at the University of Salamanca in Spain. “In secondary school, I became interested in biology and especially in how cells function. That’s why I chose to go to university to study Biotechnology. It’s a mix of biology and technology, to invent applications of biomaterial via engineering, in order to fight environmental pollution, for example.”

That’s also why Ana Rios Miguel ended up at Microbiology: “Microbes, or bacteria, eat everything and can grow in any condition. That’s fascinating. I wanted to know how this is possible and how it works. In order to do that, I needed to conduct fundamental research.”

Master's programme Radboud University

Ana Rios Miguel wanted to do this research in English and thus outside of Spain. “The research programme in the Netherlands is exactly what I was looking for. I finished the Master’s programme and started a PhD at the department of Microbiology at Radboud University in Nijmegen.”

She became a part of the team researching how bacteria can break down the waste in wastewater treatment plants. Quite necessary, as 140 tonnes of chemicals end up in our water systems every year. Because it’s not possible to purify everything yet, the remains end up in the environment via the wastewater. Examples are pesticides, beauty products, and medicines.

Ana Ros Miguel with pipette

Microbiology: bacteria clean wastewater

“We know that bacteria break down pollution”, says Ana Rios Miguel. “But how does it happen? Does the concentration of pollution influence the speed and thoroughness of bacteria cleaning the water? We research this with common pollution, such as paracetamol, metformin and diclofenac.”

“In our lab, we fed bacteria medicine and tested whether they can remove high concentrations more easily than low concentrations. It turns out that higher concentrations speed up the removal. Additional research has to show if higher concentrations also improve the percentage of removal. We also found that a specific gene in the bacteria enables them to break down paracetamol for example. The ultimate goal is that the results lead to a model that represents the influence of bacteria on purification of water. Using that model, bacteria can be employed more efficiently in the future.”

Practically-oriented job

Research is never finished, as Ana Rios Miguel also knows. “Conducting academic research is exciting, but I’m looking for a job that’s practically-oriented. Preferably in the Netherlands, because my partner works in Nijmegen. I would like to work at a company where I can help to make a difference with smart biotechnological applications. Such as employing microbes to prevent environmental pollution.”

“Ideally, these substances don’t occur in the water environment. Until then, bacteria can be a great aid in fighting the pollution and research is needed.”

Ana Ros Miguel in lab

This interview was first published on TechGelderland. Images: Linda Verweij.