Interview with Past Executive Research Director Dr. Cristiano Varrone

In the months leading up the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (ACS GC&E) and 9th International Conference on Green and Sustainable Chemistry, we are highlight interviews of past NESSE executive board members and volunteers for a social media campaign (#throwbackthursday) leading up to our 5 year anniversary of launching at the ACS GC&E in 2014!  This will help review NESSE’s accomplishments and celebrate all of the people who have made NESSE what it is 5 years later. This interview is with Dr. Cristiano Varrone, who is currently an Associate Professor at the Aalborg University in Copenhagen working in the field of Sustainable Biotechnology. 

Biosketch:  

Dr Cristiano Varrone | Director of Research 2015-2017

I have a background in Natural Sciences and Environmental Engineering and, as such, my general research interest is closely related to applied microbial ecology and ecobiotechnology, following a biorefinery approach. More in particular, I am very interested in finding new/effective ways to convert waste streams into higher-value products, using fermentation technologies and statistical optimization of process parameters. My research focus is mainly dedicated to the development of second generation biofuels and green chemicals (such as bioplastics), as well as the biodegradation of plastics and pesticides. I have several hobbies, such as traveling, hiking, birdwatching, eno-gastronomy, music, languages, Improv, etc., and I have a big passion for the Sea.

When and in what capacity did you volunteer for NESSE?

I volunteered as a Research Director and member of the Executive Board from 2015-2017.

What inspired you to serve on the NESSE board of directors?

Before joining, I personally met with some of the people from NESSE, who organized a Workshop on BioEconomy at the University of York, and I was highly impressed by the positive energy, the proactive attitude and the very international atmosphere. It was clear to me that the members of NESSE have passion and stand for what they do, and it felt inspiring for me to be part of this and give my contribution.

What projects were you involved in while serving on the NESSE board? What impact did you see from your work?

As the director of research I tried to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and networking among young researchers and the NESSE groups, identifying important research themes to be developed and discussed. This included, for example, writing blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals, participating in NESSE’s Randomized Coffee Trials, or keeping updated our NESSE LinkedIn group (posting topics dealing with sustainable science, conferences and career opportunities for young researchers). A large project regarded the development and coordination of the Global Challenges Team. Another key activity was to develop NESSE’s webinar series, suggesting diverse research topics and inviting relevant speakers. I was also supporting NESSE’s organization of courses, workshops and conferences, etc. The hoped impact from my side was to help increasing the visibility of early-career researchers and provide a network for motivated young sustainable scientists, where to exchange ideas, project and collaboration opportunities.

What did you gain (skills, connections, etc.) from being involved with the NESSE executive board?

The biggest gain was the great positive energy that we transmitted to each other in every skype meeting, project development and discussion, I learned what it means to develop a project and work in close contact with people from all around the world, having different background and very different time zones (which makes the scheduling of meetings or webinars more challenging)! I also learned more about the use of social network and project management platforms, or how to update our website. Last but not least, I certainly also expanded my personal network.

What impact has NESSE had on your professional career?

The experience with NESSE allowed me to reinforce several competences, which are very important when working in an international research environment. In this sense I believe that NESSE was a great training and contributed to reach my professional goals. It is not by chance that  I am now working at the Section for Sustainable Biotechnology at the Aalborg University.

Conclusion

I enjoyed my experience with NESSE, both from a personal and professional point of view. I was collaborating with enthusiastic motivated people and we share a common purpose, which was energizing. I would recommend this experience to every researcher interested in sustainability.

Where do you see NESSE 5 years from now?

In 5 years I see NESSE as an established and international organization that is giving its strong contribution to an international network of NGOs dealing with sustainability and research, with a particular focus on the young scientists that will need to make the sustainable development a reality.
If you could give one piece of advice to individuals in the membership, what would it be?

Be active, give feedbacks and engage in NESSE’s activities!