PlantLink Researcher in the Spotlight – Alfredo Zambrano

Alfredo Zambrano is a researcher at the Division of Pure and Applied Biochemistry at Lund University and works as a senior molecular biologist at OlsAro biotech. Is it hard to combine both academic and industrial careers? Read the interview below!

What is currently on top of your research agenda?

I am currently working on several projects, on the one hand I am one of the work package leaders at ScanOats, the biggest project in Sweden about improving oats. In this area we carry out studies to identify and characterize new oat varieties in relation to dietary fiber, specifically Arabinoxylan.

On the other hand, in the last two months I have made a transition towards the industry, I joined OlsAro Crop Biotech as a Senior Molecular Biologist. The main objective of our research here is focused on developing new lines of wheat that are tolerant to salt.

-Tell us about your latest publication

Our article “Characterization of high Arabinoxylan oat lines identified from a mutagenized oat population” is now under review. This study that has been carried out at ScanOats facilities at Lund University in collaboration with the Department of Biotechnology is based on the identification of new lines of oats with high contents of Arabinoxylan (AX). Likewise, we have been able, using immunolocalization techniques, to determine the location of AX in the oat kernel.

-What led you into your particular field of research?

During my PhD and postdoc, I worked with model plants which led to my current crop studies. Oats and wheat give me the opportunity to work in a more applied type of science where the benefits and impact of our research on society can be seen directly. Generating a high fiber content oat line that has health benefits or finding more resilient wheat lines that can be grown on saline or degraded soils is something very motivating and exciting for any scientist.

-What are the implications of your research for society?

As I said before, the implications are many and of great importance. Let us keep in mind that we live in a society that depends heavily on cereals (wheat, rice, corn, oats…) and that we are facing big challenges such as a growing population and decreasing arable land for many reasons. If we want a more sustainable agriculture, we must work on improving our crops.

On the other hand, what is more important than health? The main motivation of our research is to be able to contribute to a healthier life based on more foods with oats.

-Finally, let´s say you got unlimited research funds; where would your research be five years from now?

Hard to say because you never know where you will be in five years, either in a Caribbean Island with a mojito, hahaha, or seeing how new lines of oats are applied in final products in supermarkets and new lines of wheat are grown in soils that five years ago was impossible. Both options would make me happy and are compatible.

Thank you for a very interesting interview, Alfredo! We wish you the best of luck and success in your future paths!

(Photo: Daniel Petersson)