Member Q&A: Arno Fricke

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05 / 05 / 2020

This is a regular column to introduce our members. In this issue, we’re pleased to introduce Arno Fricke.

Where are you currently based?

I’m currently working between labs in the Microbiology Department at University College Cork and the Environmental Research Institute, here in Cork in the south of Ireland.

What is your area of specialism?

Microbial biotechnology.

And more specifically?

My PhD is part of a wider interdisciplinary project called Newtrients. This project focuses on a circular economy approach for dairy processing wastewater. My role is to generate volatile fatty acids from raw wastewater and later convert these to bioplastics (polyhydroxyalkanoates) using a mixed microbial approach, driven by selection rather than genetic optimisation. We try to utilise waste streams and reduce energy costs associated with sterilisation in pure culture fermentations in an effort to supplement global research to make bioplastics more competitive with current plastics.

Tell us about your education to date.

I finished my undergrad in biology at the University of Marburg (Germany). During that time, I focused mainly on microbiology and, following a field trip to a major biotech company, I realised that my future would involve more applied research in biotechnology. This plan came into action with my master’s at the University of Münster (Germany) and, since 2017, with my PhD here in Cork.

Where did your interest in microbiology come from?

The first line from our microbiology professor during my undergrad was, “Bacteria rule our world”. In the next few lectures, he showed us how true this statement is and how we can work together with bacteria to solve problems we face.

What are the professional challenges that present themselves and how do you try to overcome them?

Working in the lab by yourself can feel very lonely. I’m a very sociable person and need a certain amount of human interaction to enjoy my days. I think I’m not alone with that and therefore joined the postgraduate committee to organise events for PhD students to bring people together and create a more open and interactive environment for everyone.

What is the best part about ‘doing science’?

One of my professors told me his three-year PhD was to sequence a single gene, which is less than a day’s work today. It is amazing to be part of this global network that makes the impossible possible.

Who is your role model?

I don’t have a specific role model, but I am constantly influenced by the people surrounding me.

What do you do to relax?

When I moved to Ireland I fell in love with the landscape and coastline of this beautiful island. So most of my hobbies include different aspects of it, either during a trail run across the mountain ranges, kayaking on the River Lee or cycling in the harbour area.

What one luxury item would you take to a desert island?

My camera, to capture moments happening around me. If somebody finds it later they will be able to see the story of my time on the island.

Tell us one thing that your work colleagues won’t know about you!

The top two priorities on my bucket list are to drive a flying car and to go to space once. (Shout out to all the scientists working out there at the moment to make this dream come true one day.)

If you weren’t a scientist, what would you be?

Graphic designer. Maybe I will be able to combine the two jobs in the future in the form of science communication.

If you would like to be featured in this section or know someone who may, contact Paul Easton, Head of Membership Services, at p.easton@microbiologysociety.org.