Meet the MetaFluidics Team! (Episode 3)

Today, let’s introduce Dr. Paloma Pizarro-Tobías, from Partner Bio-Iliberis R&D (Spain)

Paloma Pizarro-Tobías is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Bio-Iliberis, Granada, Spain, a BIO CSIC spin-off company that develops advanced biotechnological solutions for environmental restoration and the efficient removal of pollutants from soils and waters based on ultraresistant microorganisms. Paloma carries out research in Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Metagenomics and Biotechnology. Let’s find out more about her and her experience with MetaFluidics in this latest “Meet the MetaFluidics team” interview!

  • What exactly are you working on?

At the moment, I’m working on the characterization of the enzymes from metagenomic libraries, for thermoresistance, optimum temperature and assessing their substrate affinity.

  • What would you like to accomplish in the future?

I’d love to continue to work in science, no matter the area or topic, anything related to science would be a dream job. Also I would like to have more time for developing other interests and hobbies, like design and traveling.

  • Have you gained any additional skills through MetaFluidics?

Of course. I had a background in microbiology, fundamentally, and thanks to my participation in Metafluidics, I have been able to develop my skills in molecular biology, specifically in metagenomics. I’ve been able to optimize DNA extraction protocols from complex samples, learn how to overcome issues when constructing libraries and performing screenings with these kinds of samples, and right now to characterize the resulting positive hits.

  • A more personal question now… If you were stuck on an island, what three things would you bring and why?

My husband and my dog, for obvious reasons, but I think they count only as one, as they are my family pack ;), the complete works of Philip K. Dick in order to allow me to travel to other dimensions if needed, and last, but not least, a whole load of SPF 50.

For more information about Partner Bio-Iliberis, visit their webpage:

Meet the MetaFluidics Team! (Episode 2)

Today, let’s introduce Dr. Anna Sofia Lewin, from Partner SINTEF (Norway)

Anna Sofia Lewin is a Senior Research Scientist at SINTEF, one of Europe’s largest independent research organisations and a key MetaFluidics partner. Anna belongs to the Biotechnology and Nanomedicine Sector of the Materials and Chemistry (MC) Institute. Find out more about her in this latest “Meet the MetaFluidics team” interview!

  • How did you become a scientist? 

I have always been interested in how things work and have been very curious since I was a child. When we started having biology (and in particular molecular and cell biology) in school, I quickly found out that this was what I liked the most and decided to study that at University. Then one thing just led to another, and here I am…

  • What exactly are you working on?

I work within several different projects through my position as a researcher at SINTEF. Most of them are related to metagenomics, studying the microbiomes of different environments, i.e. everything from soil, marine habitats, aquaculture etc, and bioprospecting from such environments. I work with molecular genetics, using these tools for bioprospecting, microbiome characterization, microbiome monitoring and similar activities.

  • What things give you the greatest satisfaction at work?    

The feeling when you come up with an idea on how to solve a challenge you have, design the experiment, execute it, and it works beautifully…

  • What is exactly your role in the MetaFluidics project?  

I work as the SINTEF co-PI together with Alexander Wentzel, who is SINTEFs main PI. I do some work in the lab, mostly molecular genetic  related, but merely manage SINTEF’s combined work, following status and progress as well as plan some of the experiments that we do.

  • Will the MetaFluidics project change your career prospects?

No, I don’t think so, not directly anyway. As mentioned, I work on several different projects, and the impact of a single project is often limited. But the MetaFluidics project has taught me a lot about project planning and management, EU projects and how they work, as well as given me the opportunity to meet a whole group of extremely nice collaborators all around Europe, which I hope to be able to continue to collaborate with also in the future.

  • A more personal question now… If you could realize a dream that you have had while asleep, what dream would you pick?

Aaa, hard question…!! I usually don’t remember my dreams, which is a pity, there is surely plenty of weird stuff there. I often dream of being more on top of things, one step ahead in everyday life, which never happens. That would be nice 😉 Apart from that, I usually dream of waking up, going out on a terrace with a cup of coffee, at some warm, nice and sunny place, just starting the day in a slow pace, but as a mother of a small one I guess that will have to wait until I grow old (LOL)…

No sunny terrace for the moment… But coffee and computer!

For more information about Partner SINTEF, visit their webpage:

Meet the MetaFluidics Team! (Episode 1)

Let’s start this new, exciting series with our Coordinator, Dr. Aurelio Hidalgo Huertas, from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)

Aurelio Hidalgo Huertas is an Assistant Professor at UAM, one of the leading research and education institutes in Spain, recognized as International Campus of Excellence since 2010 in association with the Spanish Research Council (CSIC). Aurelio Hidalgo Huertas carries out research at the “Center for Molecular Biology Severo Ochoa” (CBMSO) and teaches at the University’s Department of Molecular Biology, the largest and most research-intensive department at UAM. Find out more about him in this very first “Meet the MetaFluidics team” interview!

  • How did you become a professor at UAM?

Funnily enough, I was literally intercepted by Prof. José Berenguer back in 2006, while on my way to sign a contract as Head of Biotech of an SME elsewhere in Spain. He suggested I ought to apply for a tenure track to work together, so I declined a solid offer from a company, applied for the “Ramon y Cajal” tenure track program and I got it at the first try, surprisingly.

  • What exactly are you working on?

We are trying to establish functional screening of directed evolution or metagenomic libraries using microfluidic droplets at higher temperatures. We are primarily concerned with protein stability, which is why we focus on thermophiles and the strategies their proteins adopt in order to become thermostable. We have a number of other side projects as well, such as biological selections in order to enhance thermostability, but also enzyme discovery campaigns for a number of other relevant enzymes for biocatalysis. 

On top of all that, we are also busy with outreach activities. For instance, we are still going around (EU Open Day, European Night of Researchers) with the hands-on activity for kids, “Proteins and Microbes with Superpowers”, about the application of enzymes and microorganisms in everyday life. At some point in the future, I’d like to do something hands-on about lab-on-a-chip called “Honey, I shrunk the lab”.

  • What do your students learn in your classes?    

The rationale behind the facts. For me it’s more important what they can do with those facts, like connect them, analyze them, integrate them or explain them to their neighbour in class. In order to do this you need to know the facts and so much more! So, I encourage them to become the “microbiology experts” at home, when they hear something on the news about the Listeria outbreak or the microbiome. Also, I find my students are very literal and visual, so I’m constantly using analogies and props in class, e.g. molecular models to explain archeal membranes, a bacterial cell wall made of paper clips, a puff pastry to explain chemotaxis, prisms to illustrate microscopes, double-sided jellies to explain enantioselectivity… whatever does the trick.  Also, I have the graveyard shift (i.e. last period), so my classes had better be active or they will be empty.

  • What things give you the greatest satisfaction at work?

In class, it’d be the “wow” moment. That moment when a student’s jaw drops to the floor in awe from sheer realization, when you can almost hear the “click” of the wheels turning and locking into place, the connection of concepts. It’s magical. In the lab, I’d say two things give me great satisfaction. The first one is initiative from my team members. Take the lead, explore and propose new ways and concepts! That is a lesson I learned from my postdoc with Uwe Bornscheuer. The second thing that brings me satisfaction is… tinkering. I admit I love looking for new ways and parts to enhance our microfluidics equipment. Blame it on Lego. It’s a great feeling, and also scary because you may make things worse with your tinkering.

  • What is exactly your role in the MetaFluidics project?   

I act as coordinator of MetaFluidics. I was involved since the very first moment of the proposal, bringing the concept to life, recruiting some partners and coordinating the writing process with the help of this superb consortium. After we were selected by the European Commission, I handled the grant preparation process and now I take care that both the work plan and the administration proceed smoothly. To use an analogy, I see myself as an orchestra conductor, I should know what each instrument sounds like, when they ought to start playing and the score. MetaFluidics is a rich ensemble sound, very interwoven with melody lines that come together and drift apart and then come together again. J.S. Bach, maybe?

  • What is the best and the hardest thing when working in a European project?

Best thing? The cooperation within the consortium and with other projects. I cannot stress it enough, I am very lucky to have worked closely with such impressive scientists. There’s also the satisfaction of seeing where the project fits in a larger scheme of things, within the EU’s science policy, within the European vision for Industrial Biotech. Being closer to the Commission and to this network of Industrial Biotech projects has been extremely enlightening for me. I have learned very much from our Project Officer Dr. Carmen de Vicente.

Hardest thing? Clearly the pace of things. Someone once told me that a coordinator year is worth 7 human years. So many things happening and so many more to plan! All in all, I do recommend coordinating EU grants. It’s an amazing learning experience and a chance to be part of something larger.

  • A more personal question now… What do you do in your spare time? 

I have not always been a good keeper of work-life balance, but I keep trying to. PIs should set an example of healthier work-life balance and care that team members have it too. So, I try to work out, go to the movies once a week, bake German cakes (I make a killer Kirschstreuselkuchen), enjoy food, wine and the sea around Bilbao whenever I can get away, and… curling. This is probably one of the worst hobbies you could have when you live in a country with almost perpetual sunshine and no dedicated ice rinks. But it’s fun, and it’s quite demanding… and probably the only sport where you can yell at your teammates. Before you ask, no, I don’t yell “Hurry hard” to the MetaFluidics partners when a deadline approaches.

For more information about the “Center for Molecular Biology Severo Ochoa” (CBMSO) at Partner UAM, visit their webpage:

Science Day at Cambridge Department of Biochemistry

On March 16,2019, MetaFluidics was showcased during the Science Day held in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge. Over 500 visitors took part in the interactive demonstrations about metagenomics and high-throughput sorting run by MetaFluidics scientists.

Everyone was super enthusiastic about the experience, including Callum, aged 6: ‘I really want to be a scientist now!

MetaFluidics is proud to contribute to recruiting the scientists of tomorrow!

Happy International Women’s Day!

All the women in the MetaFluidics consortium wish you all a very happy International  Women’s Day!

Microbes and Proteins with Superpowers Will Pop up in Zaragoza!

Following their successful and fun learning activities at the “Science in the City” Festival in Toulouse, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) has been invited to the “European Night of Researchers” in Zaragoza, on Sept 28th  2018.

This will be another great opportunity to showcase exciting research conducted within the EU funded innovative biotechnology projects MetaFluidics and CarbaZymes, in which UAM is an active partner.

Everyone is welcome to learn about and test those superpowers!

This research work was also presented as a poster at the Spanish Society for Microbiology conference on Teaching and Dissemination of Microbiology in Madrid in July, where it was awarded first prize. Jorge Bravo, MSc, received the prize on behalf of MetaFluidics, CarbaZymes and UAM.



YES, Proteins and Microbes do have Superpowers!!

Hundreds of children and adults took part and had fun while learning about microbes in the Science in the City Festival last week in Toulouse, France.

From July 9 to July 12, some of the MetaFluidics partners were present in Toulouse for the Science in the City Festival, the general public event of the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) Congress. For 4 days on the Place du Capitole, children and adults could discover the many different uses of microbes and proteins in our daily life as part of the « Proteins and Microbes with Superpowers » activities, co-organised by Horizon 2020-funded projects MetaFluidics and Carbazymes.

To begin with, after being briefed on what we, as scientists, do in MetaFluidics and Carbazymes, children and adults were invited to join our microbiology team to go and explore the environment in search for microbes with specific characteristics. The “environment” as such was represented by a ball pool, which was very much appreciated by all visitors (as well as the scientists involved! :-)).




After finding the super microbes, participants continued their mission by carrying out different experiments involving microorganisms. The message was clear: “Whatever you do in your daily life, microbes are involved!”. Visitors could for instance learn about the superpowers that the bacteria in our bodies have by identifying where the “good” and the “bad” microbes are: in our skin, in our mouth, in our lungs, in our stomach, in our gut, in our blood…

They also learned about how microbes are useful to prepare and preserve some very tasty food products like cheese, bread and wine (Yes, ESOF was organized in France this year!), and mimicked the use of microbes in several depollution processes.

And last but not least, adult visitors learned that all these microbial abilities are due to the production of a battery of enzymes with superpowers, and they were introduced to how cells decode DNA and how enzymes can be synthesised in large scales to help us live better!

In total, nearly 400 persons (both adults and children) visited our stand on place du Capitole. Despite the warm weather, everyone thoroughly enjoyed exchanging and communicating about microbiology with the general public, including children of all ages who may one day join the scientific community for real!

EU-funded MetaFluidics project is officially past the mid-term!

After two very active years of fruitful work, the whole MetaFluidics consortium gathered in Toulouse, France on June 5-6, 2018 to celebrate its mid-term progress. This was a fantastic opportunity for project partners to assess and share results, as well as prepare forthcoming actions.

Over the past two years, the project partners have been busy sampling the natural (extreme) biodiversity to create new metagenomic libraries and find relevant genes, enzymes and molecules present in extremophile microorganisms, among others. They have also developed new enrichment methods and screening assays, making use of microfluidics, the manipulation of liquids at a micrometric scale.

We are now putting all these methods in practice to screen the biodiversity. In particular, partners showed progress in the screening of enzymes using different hosts, including extremophiles, to access as much biodiversity as possible.  A wide range of assays was presented: to screen for enzymes or genes, both naive and sequence-based, single-step conversions or cascade reactions.  In a word, we are getting closer and closer to the lab-on-a-chip!!

Very useful exchanges took place during the meeting in Toulouse, both in terms of method optimization and on how to best exploit the cutting-edge science that is being done and the technology that is being developed. In particular, MetaFluidics is actively seeking to expand the number of its stakeholders and to establish synergies with other EU-funded projects.

Dissemination of the project results has been quite active too with 12 planned or effective publications in various peer-reviewed scientific journals and regular participation in international events and conferences.

Communication and outreach to the general public are also taken very seriously, with a strong presence in the upcoming ESOF 2018 events in Toulouse: one scientific session entitled “Going to extremes” will be presented during the Forum, while the MetaFluidics team will also be present in the “Science in the City” village to show adults and children that proteins and microbes can have superpowers!

The official project video will also be released soon and other communication actions are planned in the coming weeks or months.

For more information on the MetaFluidics project and its activities, please check our website: or contact us at

MetaFluidics is also present on social media:

In short… MetaFluidics was present at different events this year

28 September 2016

Functional Metagenomics 2016

The Functional Metagenomics 2016 conference took place in Inderøy, Norway, on September 25-28, 2016, with the participation of several MetaFluidics partners. This was the 2nd open conference of ‘Functional Metagenomics International’, which was formed in 2011 and consists of a growing number of researchers around the globe sharing the interest in studying environmental metagenomes based on encoded functions and in developing efficient tools to exploit these using function-based approaches.

The Conference brought together interested researchers working in the field of Functional Metagenomics for three intense days of scientific presentations, as well as vivid discussions leading to exchange of knowledge and latest research results, in the inspiring surrounding of Mid-Norwegian nature. The informal setting and small format of the conference, as well as the participation of world leading researchers within the field ensure high quality, in-depth scientific discussions both in the plenum, in extended breaks and at social functions.

The great and positive response to our invitation indicates the increasing relevance of metagenomics research in functionally describing microbial biodiversity on earth and targeting its exploitation towards new products for a wide variety of applications for the benefits of society and to contribute to solving some of the key societal challenges of our time.

For more information on the Functional Metagenomics 2016 conference, please visit the conference website:

16 November 2016

Maximising the impact of KET Biotechnology

On 15-16 November 2016, Project coordinator Dr. Aurelio Hidalgo and Dr. Michael Lappe fom partner QIAGEN Aarhus were honoured to take part in the European Commission’s second Workshop on “Maximising the Impact of KET Biotechnology”.

In line with the goals of Open Innovation, Open Science and Open to the World, the workshop gathered a range of academic and industrial project beneficiaries representing 21 KET Biotechnology projects funded through Horizon 2020, representatives from the European Association for Bio-industries (EuropaBio) and the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB), delegates from jurisdictions leading in biotechnology (USA, China, Korea and Japan), an expert on standardisation in synthetic biology, representatives of the Bio-based Industries’ Joint Undertaking and representatives of the European Commission.

Discussions focused on ongoing European research and innovation biotechnology projects and their future added value, thereby providing an opportunity for project partners to show actual and potential progress towards expected impacts, as well as a diversity of scientific, industrial and market difficulties and challenges in modern biotechnology.

Dr. Hidalgo and Dr. Lappe presented the objectives of the MetaFluidics project and how we propose to overcome a number of current bottlenecks through innovative metagenomics technologies.

For more information:

29 June 2017

International Workshop on Extremophile Research in Alicante

Projects Metafluidics and Carbazymes organized an International Workshop on extremophile research in Alicante.

International experts on extremophilic microorganism research came together between 26th and 29th June to teach in the Workshop “Technical approaches to the study of extremophiles”.

Hosted at the University of Alicante and directed by Prof. Pepa Antón, the course was coorganized by the Spanish Network for Extremophiles and the research projects “MetaFluidics” and “CarbaZymes”, both funded by the European Commission.  During the workshop, 34 students from 5 different countries had the chance to learn from the experts and get hands-on experience in handling and analyzing these peculiar microbes.

Dr. Aurelio Hidalgo and Pr. Pepa Antón, co-organizers of the workshop

The program, which included theory and practice, included instruction by renowned experts such as Francisco J.M Mojica, discoverer of  CRISPR systems , CSIC scientists Mª Asunción de los Ríos, Jacek Wierzchos and Juan Miguel González, Aurelio Hidalgo (Coordinator of Project MetaFluidics),” and  several microbiology professors from Autónoma of Madrid, Granada, Sevilla, Helsinki or Warwick universities, Helsinki.

What are extremophile microorganisms?

Extreme environments are locations with a temperature, acidity, salinity, pressure or radiation levels that are hostile to life, from an anthropocentric point of view.  Organisms that dwell in such environments are called extremophiles and they have adapted perfectly to function under such conditions.  The interest in the study of extremophiles lies in a better understanding of evolution and the origin of life on Earth, as well as the possibility of life in other planets.   Additionally, these microorganisms are coveted for industrial applications due to the extreme resistance and tolerance of their proteins.  In this workshop, the most current techniques were presented, from biochemical characterization of enzymes to the analysis of the microbial communities that live in these extreme environments.

For more information or interviews, please contact us at:

The group of international students, together with their supervisors.

25 November 2017

MetaFluidics at Novozymes internal R&D meeting

On Friday 25 November, MetaFluidics partner Novozymes organised a very enriching internal R&D meeting in Bagsværd, Denmark. The MetaFluidics poster was especially successful and attracted many listeners !!

From left to right: Martin, Ali, Keith & Michael from Novozymes standing next to the MetaFluidics kakemono & poster