Waste management: young researchers from Greece, Italy, Tunisia and Spain discuss their involvement in the CEOMED project


They are young and talented. They started their careers in the field of R&D recently. They are present of the CEOMED project and the future of science on the reuse of organic waste. In this article, we would like to introduce our young researchers from Greece, Italy, Tunisia and Spain.

How are you assuming this new responsibility?

Nesrine Gharsallah (from the Center of Biotechnology of Sfax-CBS, Tunisia): "My acceptance of to the position of “PhD student”» at the Laboratory of Environmental Bioprocesses-CBS opened under the framework of CEOMED project strengthens my confidence. I am excited because I like the type of work that I am doing, and my aim is to get it done perfectly. I know that a part of growth and being good at my job is by achieving perfection in my tasks and by assuming responsibilities and that shows a willingness to grow. I think I am responsible for the quality of my work and results. This does not mean that I won’t share my ideas with others, but it means that I have a responsibility about the results of the project and I have to act on the elements that have an impact on these results. In my opinion, I am responsible for the results obtained from my work, and I think my actions affect the ability of other team members to achieve their goals."

How does the CEOMED relate to your career?

Dorra Triki (from Center of Biotechnology of Sfax, Tunisia): "As an agricultural engineer and PhD student, my objective is always to improve and develop production techniques in order to set up sustainable, responsible and competitive agriculture. Also, my aim is the research of new good ecological and economic practices in agriculture.Now, I think I have acquired the essential skills and qualifications required for my role in CEOMED project. In fact, I validated my theoretical knowledge by numerous internships in different companies and organizations. Furthermore, I worked both in the field and in the laboratory. I worked in the field to understand the problems and in the laboratory in order to find and develop the best solutions. Then, as part of my end-of-study project, my internship in the Laboratory of Environmental Bioprocesses at the Biotechnology Center of Sfax brought me the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary in the field of characterization and agronomic valorization of anaerobic digestates, which allowed me to confirm my interest in this field of activity. After obtaining my degree as an agricultural engineer, I felt motivated to continue studying to be able to use the knowledge and skills gained during my previous studies in a responsible and sustainable way and my contribution in CEOMED project offered me this opportunity."

What is the added value in your CVs to be selected as a junior researcher under the CEOMED project?

Nesrine: "My work in CEOMED project is an opportunity to recognize several types of reactors, find practical solutions for useless quantities of waste, deepen my knowledge in the thematic of anaerobic digestion which allows me to acquire knowledge through your supervision, training, congresses, exchange of ideas. Workplace experience will complement my academic studies by providing another way of learning outside the classroom. It will also provide me with crucial knowledge and skills. It is a framework for executing creative analysis and providing information to identify problems and arrive at recommendations. Also, as a junior researcher, it is an opportunity to develop expertise in a variety of functions and steps by collecting, synthesizing, analyzing and presenting the data and the results of the project according to a well-defined process which are fundamental steps for good research."

Dorra: "As a junior researcher, my work in CEOMED offers me an excellent opportunity to acquire more strong research skills and expand my sphere of knowledge about agriculture development as well as waste management and digestate valorization. Besides this, I will be able to obtain excellent analytical, research and communication skills, which are in combination with the skills obtained at my previous education. So enhancing these skills will always be an asset to my career development."

How is the job of young researcher?

Ester Scotto di Perta (from the University of Naples, Italy): "Being a young researcher is a challenging and satisfying experience, which is in continuous evolution. It is closely related to a real inclination for science. Indeed, only the passion for science and a curious mind can give you the perseverance of keeping investigate and trying to improve your results and the capability of always wondering what an outcome could mean and why you got it. I may say that it is a fascinating job, but for really motivated people."

And more specifically, in CEOMED, what is the added value to be a young researcher in the framework of CEOMED?

Rosetta Lamboglia (from the University of Naples, Italy): "The added value to be part of the CEOMED project is the fact that the CEOMED project involves a great number of countries, offering the possibility to interact, cooperate and share objectives. From the continuous exchange, the discussions and the different visions, this big project became a winner. In this, the young researchers have the possibility to create a strong network fed by the continuous incentive coming from different involved contexts. Moreover, their motivation and interest grow through using the circular economy approach that is central the project and towards which the whole world is looking at."

If you could give a recommendation to future researchers, what would it be?

Ester: "For sure, never give up! Getting good results requires a lot of hard work, resilience and dedication, but most of all, passion. Passion can drive you in new challenging experimental activities.
Rosetta: Strong interest in your specific topic is the starting point for carrying on experiments with real diligence. But good experimental activities are always based on a never-stopping good literature study, which allows you to improve your knowledge and evolve your work."

What is the role of young women researchers in the current scientific framework?

Ángeles Trujillo (from the Spanish National Research Council, Spain): "Throughout history, women researchers, especially young women, have been significantly undervalued within the scientific field, working in inequality or being denigrated in positions below their abilities or training. They did not have the same opportunities in society. But fortunately, now, we can gather the fruit of all the work of our predecessors. It is in our hands to achieve that appreciation and recognition of women within science. We must continue to struggle to maintain this scientific work and motivate generations to continue to do so as well. We owe it to all those women who faced the society of their times defending their passion for science."

In your opinion, does science promote young talents?

Ángeles: "In my view, generally speaking, talented young people are not promoted enough. I think that the problem is not the lack of interest, desire or dedication of young people or of those who educate us. The main problem, regarding this issue, is the shortage of economic aid, to which is added the bureaucratic hindrance. I believe that from the moment you finish your university studies, any professional career that you try to opt for is a career full of obstacles."

Do you expect to grow up in the scientific field after this experience? In which way?

Georgios Lanaras Mamounis (from the Democritus University of Thrace - DUTH, Greece): "I firmly believe that this experience will help me mature and achieve my goals both personally and professionally. CEOMED’s main theme is Circular Economy, which happens to be the central theme of my ongoing Doctoral thesis as well. Participating in the transformation of waste into value-added products on the field is invaluable for both the completion of my studies and my scientific future. In addition, in order to cope with the demands of a research project, one has to work hard and be a team player, both of which are valuable lessons for any young scientist. Finally, I think that the most important benefit from my participation in CEOMED is the daily interaction and cooperation with some of the most talented scientists of the field, which belong to our team. Their knowledge, work ethics and devotion on the protection of the environment, are only some of their features that I would love to assimilate and mimic in both my future personal and professional life."

Which specific aspects would you like to highlight about the CEOMED project?

Nikolaos Trevlopoulos (from the Democritus University of Thrace, Greece): "The combination of different scientific subjects such as environmental, social and legal creates a remarkable field of survey. The inter-institutional dialogue and the exchange of knowledge between the CEOMED partners promote cooperation which is a key element of successful projects. Furthermore, the interaction with the local stakeholders is a notable aspect. It emphasizes how fundamental their participation is, not only in improving waste management but also in the project as a whole."

Which is the needed to boost your careers of young researchers?

Achilleas Kalogiannis (from the Democritus University of Thrace, Greece): "As a young researcher, CEOMED is for me an opportunity to expand my knowledge in the field of biotechnology, which is essential for the transition to renewable sources of energy and to the effective management of organic wastes.  Taking into account the experience that will come through this research program, it will be a privilege and a push of the career of any young researcher who will participate in this project. Moreover, working with some very bright and renowned researchers is a unique experience. Seniors researchers can provide support and guidelines in order to grow ourselves for the future. Finally, I believe that hard work is the key for young researchers to develop their skills further."

In general, are you aware of how important is your work under CEOMED to obtain the results?

Georgios, Nikolaos and Achilleas: "DUTH has been assigned with the realization of three main tasks within the CEOMED project: Firstly, the development of a tailored system for the management of the open local market food wastes. The development of this system is based on an iterative process that can be summarised in the following steps: Plan, Do, Check, Act. Secondly, the characterization of open market wastes and the biochemical methane potential assessment of them, which will provide the essential knowledge for the development of anaerobic systems of one and two stages. Finally, data analysis from the lab and pilot-scale systems, simulation and adjustment of ADM1 based on results, that will arise from the aforementioned experiments, will take place. All tasks are vital procedures, in which the next activities of CEOMED will be based on. Their completion relies on methodical cooperation between the senior and young researchers of our team. On our part, we have been assigned with the implementation of important activities of the abovementioned tasks by our senior colleagues, while being under their continuous scientific and mental guidance."