Science - April 25, 2018

Mihris Naduthodi receives Thesis Award for improving bacteria factory

Text:
Kenneth van Zijl

Mihris Naduthodi wrote the best thesis of Wageningen for 2017. He received the Thesis Award for his fundamental research into bacteria that produce succinic acid.

The laureates of the Thesis Award 2017. Left to right: overall winner Mihris Naduthodi, Ewout Knoester’s father, Ralph van Zwieten and Giulia Sirna. © Guy Ackermans

Naduthodi worked with Bacillus smithii. This bacterium is able to synthetically produce succinic acid – the common name of 1,4-butandioic acid, an organic compound that is generally ‘delved’ during the cracking of petroleum and plays an important part in the production of pharmaceuticals and plastics.

Tripling production
The production of succinic acid using bacteria is a lot cleaner, but the yield is low. To increase productivity, Naduthodi genetically modified the bacteria, thus tripling its production of succinic acid.

According to the jury, Naduthodi carried out very thorough, fundamental research, which has been published in the authoritative journal Nature Communications. The research could also make a significant contribution to the development of ‘bacterial factories’. Mihris Naduthodi showed that fundamental and applied research can indeed be combined beautifully.

Mihris Naduthodi has since started working as a PhD candidate in the Bioprocess Technology group.

Bronze statuette
Every year, the University Fund Wageningen (UFW) and KLV crown the best theses for each of the educational domains. These domains are Environmental Sciences, Social Sciences, Life Sciences and Agro Technology and Food Sciences. Besides Naduthodi, the Thesis Award was awarded to Ewout Knoester, Giulia Sirna and Ralph van Zwieten. Each of them received 500 euros and a bronze statuette. As the overall winner, Naduthodi also received an additional 500 euros. The awards were presented yesterday during the opening of the Month of Education.

In a video, last year’s laureates gave their best tips about the making of an award-winning video. Justin Tauber, student Molecular Life Sciences, had won last year’s Thesis Award.

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