Dec 18, 2020
Ana Rodiles, Monogastric Center of Excellence: “There is always a new challenge with the possibility to be creative”
Dec 18, 2020
Meet our researcher: Ana Rodiles, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Monogastric Center of Excellence
- Based in Spain
- MSc. in aquaculture, Ph.D. in fish nutrition (University of Cadiz, Spain), postdoc in fish microbiota (Plymouth University, UK)
- Areas of expertise: bioinformatics, metagenomics, microbiome
Ana, what are you passionate about?
One of my passions is to discover new things and new potential tools that help us understand the complexity of microorganism interactions, both inside and around the animal.
I am also passionate about the environment: microorganisms are all over the place, and we know very little about them! Everything is very new. We started investigating the human microbiome project in 2008, now we are applying these techniques to every animal species. However, we are still searching for new ways of understanding microorganisms.
Animal welfare, nutrition, and health are linked to the animal and the feed, but the microbiota also plays an important part. This is my main focus right now and also one of my passions.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become a scientist?
I enjoy the little things in life. For example, lately, I have been collecting small sand samples from every beach I visit. I love the sea, snorkeling, discovering new colors, marine life, and, sometimes, some seals. That’s why I studied marine science. What was great about my studies is that you learn to understand everything about the sea: not only biology but also physics, chemistry, and the uses. This enhanced my feeling that — of all the sciences — biology was my favorite one.
At the University of Cádiz (UCA), I started with field samplings in the rocky shore, getting otoliths from mullets, looking at river samples for sturgeon natural food; then completing my master’s degree in clam culture technology. After this, I decided that I preferred to work more in nutrition and in the lab. I did my Ph.D. in fish nutrition by developing Senegalese sole feeds. My main goal was to learn as much as possible from the animal in a holistic manner by looking at different biomarkers for nutrition and welfare.
I had the opportunity to continue my learning process in the UK, so I did. There, my studies were more focused on molecular DNA approaches for studying bacteria and microbiota. I was in the laboratory working with little things, and that confirmed my choice. Even more, I started implementing bioinformatics, which allowed me to study the microbiome and collaborate with other scientists and animal species.
I met a lot of friends back there, and I enjoyed discovering new cultures, new natural places, and new flavors. This also ties into my passion for cooking: I could cook Spanish dishes with adapted ingredients but also learn new dishes from all these different cultures!
As I said, I like to travel. So, I decided to move to the Netherlands to jump into applied sciences as a gut microbiota researcher of poultry and pigs for Trouw Nutrition. Over there, I met special friends and experienced new cultures.
With all this traveling, I felt like I needed to be near the sun and the sea again, so I went back home to Spain. I’m now living there, in the southwest, working for Lallemand in bioinformatics.
What is exciting about your job?
My job is very exciting because of the challenges. I’m always working in a completely new environment. By that, I mean samples from farm biofilms, or samples from various animals: dogs, horses, cats, shrimps, and more. It is always new knowledge, popping up new bacteria from different animals; new methods of data analysis and visualization; and new technology. This is what is making me passionate about what I’m doing: there is always a new challenge with the possibility to be creative.
Obviously, what I also like about my job is that we are trying to make a change in the world with our products because we are deeply looking at which strains are the most important. Not a lot of companies are doing that.
We are basically a very important key in this network of sustainable aquaculture, agriculture, and pet nutrition and health because microorganisms can make a change.
What is it like to work for the Lallemand Center of Excellence?
The Center of Excellence gives you a lot of freedom since we can work from multiple locations. We also collaborate with top research institutes: it’s something very unique, and I don’t know any other company that has these kinds of partnerships.
I have been collaborating with Lallemand since 2014 when I was at Plymouth University. Lallemand has always been an open-minded company, with clever ways to collaborate with universities and research centers. Lallemand is also training a lot of students — graduate students, Ph.D. students — and hiring postdocs. That’s how I got this opportunity. To me, this shows a very unique work environment. This gives you the strength to carry on with your research but also your academic work because we work all the time with academics. We publish a lot of our work. Since I’m coming from an academic environment (from 2003 to 2018), it’s absolutely ideal for me, I couldn’t be happier!