Ir. Sara Toja Ortega
I am a PhD student researching the removal mechanisms of influent suspended solids by Aerobic Granular Sludge (AGS).
I graduated in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the University of the Basque Country. I always felt a big curiosity about the molecular mechanisms of adaptation and evolution, and the interactions of living organisms with each other and the environment. This led me to studying a Master’s Degree in Microbiology at the Autonomous University of Madrid, attracted by the highly rich diversity of microbial species and physiologies, and their ubiquity. My education in microbiology gave me exciting insights on the possibilities that the use of microbial communities offered to solve environmental problems. My PhD thesis project bridges my two big interests: the fundamental understanding of processes shaping microbial ecosystems, and the application of biology to positively impact the environment.
In domestic wastewater, a big fraction of the COD is composed by particulates; compounds that are too bulky for being taken up by microorganisms and which have to be hydrolysed and fermented in order to be assimilated, and this way contribute to microbial growth and nutrient removal. In AGS systems the diffusion limitation given by granular structure poses a constraint for the biodegradation of suspended solids, which leaves us with the question of how AGS systems are able to efficiently remove suspended solids from the influent. I would like to understand how these substrates are removed by granules, and the role of microorganisms in this process.
I am always open to new people and ideas, so feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like to collaborate!