From plants to bio-packaging, UTC research scientists are manoeuvring

Adri­an Tron­coso-Ponce is a spe­cial­ist in plant biol­o­gy. He arrived at the UTC in 2017 and con­ducts research in agro-resources in the area of the Inno­va­tion Food Agrore­sources sec­tor. Work on pack­ag­ing with stu­dents who are increas­ing­ly aware of cur­rent sus­tain­able devel­op­ment issues. 

Adri­an Tron­coso-Ponce is a lec­tur­er and research sci­en­tist in Enzyme and Cel­lu­lar Engi­neer­ing (UTC-GEC). He came to UTC in 2017 to take up the Chair of Excel­lence in the Study and Val­ori­sa­tion of Plant Metab­o­lism, the aim of which is to use plant metab­o­lism to serve indus­try and eco­nom­ic development. 

An expert in plant biol­o­gy, he soon became very inter­est­ed in the biol­o­gy of plas­tics. “Indeed for me it is a crit­i­cal sub­ject. The best use of nat­ur­al resources is a fun­da­men­tal ques­tion for the future. This is called green chem­istry. How can we make bet­ter use of these resources while at the same time pre­serv­ing the plan­et?” asks the Span­ish-born researcher, who has since been work­ing with sev­er­al nation­al and inter­na­tion­al teams from aca­d­e­m­ic net­works includ­ing INRA, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Neva­da in Reno, Mac­quar­ie Uni­ver­si­ty in Syd­ney and the Span­ish High­er Coun­cil for Sci­en­tif­ic Research. 

Adrian’s teach­ing mod­ule brings togeth­er forty stu­dents from UTC. ten hours a week around four themes: bio-econ­o­my, bio-ener­gy, bio-mate­ri­als and bio-polymers. 

No lectures, only debate and concrete action

“This course on agro-resources devel­ops an updat­ed, mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary vision of the val­ori­sa­tion and opti­mi­sa­tion of nat­ur­al resources. It describes var­i­ous aspects relat­ed to the bio-econ­o­my and the main biotech­nol­o­gy sec­tors asso­ci­at­ed with the prof­itabil­i­ty of bio­mass. The course begins with a gen­er­al descrip­tion of the cur­rent influ­ence of the bio-econ­o­my and the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my in today’s soci­ety and con­tin­ues with the descrip­tion of spe­cif­ic exam­ples such as the pro­duc­tion of bio-plas­tics and the use of bio-pack­ag­ing, bio-ener­gy sources and oth­er aspects relat­ed to the sus­tain­able use of bio­mass, in an envi­ron­ment friend­ly way” sums up the teacher-researcher, who is in favour of flex­i­ble lessons. 

Indeed, there are no lec­tures. There is a time for the pre­sen­ta­tion of the sub­ject and anoth­er one just as impor­tant for the debate between them on the theme in ques­tion with the mod­er­a­tion of the pro­fes­sor. Stu­dents must pre­pare their work from one week to the next on the basis of the ele­ments pro­vid­ed by the lec­tur­er: pub­li­ca­tions, mate­ri­als, Euro­pean doc­u­ments. “The stu­dents are fan­tas­tic. At UTC, they are all excel­lent with whom we switch from French to Eng­lish or Span­ish very eas­i­ly. They ask ques­tions, have ideas, make rel­e­vant crit­i­cisms and com­ments. For me, this is essen­tial. It is essen­tial not to believe every­thing that is said. I want every stu­dent to devel­op a crit­i­cal men­tal­i­ty,” says Adri­an Troncoso-Ponce. 

A trendy specialisation

Under­stand­ing plant metab­o­lism is a major soci­etal issue today. The UTC with the UPJV Amiens, is, at the heart of the aca­d­e­m­ic research devel­oped on this theme in the region and can rely on the Indus­tries and Agrore­sources clus­ter to inter­act with the socio-eco­nom­ic world. This spe­cial­i­sa­tion rep­re­sents real growth oppor­tu­ni­ties for region­al play­ers in the years to come and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate jobs. 

The skills devel­oped in biotech­nolo­gies in the UTC lab­o­ra­to­ries, inspired by liv­ing organ­isms, give bio­log­i­cal func­tions an indus­tri­al appli­ca­tion. “We are part of this sec­tor, which serves the val­ori­sa­tion of agro-resources. But let us be cau­tious, plants are not the answer to every­thing”, con­cludes Adri­an Tron­coso-Ponce. “They will only be part of the solu­tion to replace pol­lut­ing mate­ri­als. We must­n’t cre­ate frus­tra­tion or fall into sci­ence fiction”. 

Le magazine

Novembre 2023 - N°61

Activité physique, nutrition & santé

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