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Science & Cocktails #30

Eveline Peeters + Antoine De Schuyters (be)

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doors: 19:30 · talk: 20:30 · tickets: 8€ cocktail (or soft) included

Microbes for a sustainable future

There is an increasing awareness of the negative consequences of a growing economy that is highly dependent on the use of fossil fuels, including for transportation and for the production of chemicals for daily use, such as plastics. To find solutions for this problem, bio-engineers are looking towards microbes. It has long been known that microorganisms have the interesting property of converting organic waste, or CO2 itself, into valuable chemicals, such as biofuels or biodegradable plastics. When this is realized on a large scale in bioreactors, a sustainable process is created that is CO2-neutral and therefore more environmentally friendly. In addition, circular processes can be realized, whereby the chemicals or materials produced are reused in a biological production process at the end of their lifespan. Prof. Peeters will illustrate this with examples, ranging from the use of bacteria for the production of bioethanol to the use of filamentous fungi for a new type of construction material. But why has the industry not yet taken the step towards large-scale application of these sustainable alternative processes? A major problem is that they are not profitable. Improving these yields is therefore one of the main objectives of the new research field of 'synthetic biology'. Modifying micro-organisms using 'smart' genetic engineering can lead to increased yields or entirely new products. In this way, maybe one day the clothes we wear and the houses in which we live, will consist of microbes and microbially produced materials. And what if we keep the microbes alive?
5 questions
What prevents us from transitioning to a bio-economy?
Are genetically engineered bacteria dangerous?
What is synthetic biology?
Is synthetic biology bringing us further or closer to nature?
Would you be willing to wear shoes made out of fungi?

Eveline Peeters (vub)

Ever since learning about the fascinating world of microorganisms during my bachelor and master studies Bioengineering Sciences at the VUB, I have dedicated a large part of my life to the study of microbiology. I became passionate about extremophilic archaea, prokaryotes thriving in extreme conditions, and worked together with my mentor Daniël Charlier to investigate molecular mechanisms of transcription regulation with a focus on unravelling protein-DNA interactions. After obtaining a PhD in Bioengineering Sciences, I continued this research, while visiting other archaeal researchers at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (Netherlands), Université Paris-Sud (France) and Institut Pasteur (France). In 2014, I became an assistant professor in the Research Group of Microbiology and started leading a research team in molecular and synthetic microbiology. My research approaches diverged from purely fundamental to combining this synergistically with application-driven research and from a focus on archaea to the study of microbes in all domains of life. Studying molecular mechanisms of transcription regulators and their use in synthetic biology engineering remains a red thread in most research lines. Current challenges related to environmental pollution and climate change create a sense of urgency that stimulates synthetic biology research and research in the context of the transition from a classical petrochemical to a biobased industry. I am convinced that the use of microbial cell factories for a large-scale biological manufacturing of chemicals and materials is a very promising technology in such a biobased industry.

My current focus is to contribute to the establishment and coordination of a qualitative research program in molecular/synthetic microbiology at the VUB. I am particularly dedicated to combining this with high-level education and to nurture an inclusive environment in which research and training goes hand-in-hand.  

Antoine De Schuyters (be)

Antoine De Schuyter is a Brussels-based audiovisual artist.Through his training of screen printing (University of Art of La Cambre, Brussels, Belgium), he apprehends video as he does with matters and inks in screen printing and painting, manipulating it and pushing it to its limits.In 2012 He founded "about:blank", in collaboration with the artist Kate Wintjes. This project is dedicated to the confrontation and hyper synchronization of sound and image but also to explore the digital video by manipulating its most basic element, the pixel. 

As part of this project, he has worked with many musical artists on clips and vj sets (Plaid, Roel Funcken, Venetian Snares, Kangding Ray,Noisia, The Field, etc ...) and participates in many events and audio visual festivals in Europe (SpliceFestival, BAM Festival, Gem Fest, Cannes Electronic Beaches, Bozar Night, ...).The audio side being essential in his video works, he learned to manipulate and produce sounds.He created the soundtracks of several dance shows and short films (sound and image of "MotionHandler" (2011), co-created with the choreographer Léonore Guy, "Last Door to the South" (2015)directed by Sacha Feiner, ...). In 2016 and 2017, he collaborated with the artist Stephanie Roland byworking on the soundtracks of two of her installations.Since 2017, the creation of audiovisual installations will begin to take a prominent place in his artisticwork, confronting space, sound, light and texture. 

In 2018, he created his audiovisual project "Decades" which he presented to the public for the firsttime at TEDX BRUSSELS, LPM ROMA 2018, at BAM Liège 2018 and at the Dome Experience atWinter wonders 2019 and 2020, Symposium IX Montreal 2019, Nantes2019, etc. The year 2019 is also marked by the start of a close collaboration with the electronic musician and producer Le Motel for the creation of AV shows and music videos.The year 2022 is notably through the production of a musical album that will be released during the year 2023. In 2022, He worked on the scenography and video projection of the dance Show “RAVE (OLT)” with the dancer Nick Coutsier and the producer Le Motel and co-created the AV-show “Scaphandre” with the lyric singer Sandra Nazé.Beside his artistic creation, he works as an editor and SFX artist in the production companyLovoFilms, allowing him to work since 2009 on several hundred films, mixing advertising, short film sand music videos.