Interview with researcher Ferran Pujol

Ferran Pujol is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Microelectronics of Barcelona (IMB-CNM). At the moment, he is working a year abroad at the Laboratory of Medical Microbiology (LMM) in Antwerp. He has a Masters and PhD in microbiology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. 

Can you give a bit more background on your PhD? 

Ferran Pujol: My PhD revolved around the development of microbial toxicity bioassays, which are tests that use live bacteria to detect toxic pollutants in water samples, for example. To put it simply, you can measure whether the bacteria are alive or dead. My research focused on trying to develop microbial bioassays and biosensors, which are sensitive, affordable, and fast. Therefore, you can measure toxicity in only a few minutes. 

What are some previous projects or studies that you worked on?

Ferran Pujol: During my PhD and postdoc years, I’ve been working on several interdisciplinary projects involving biology and technology. For example, I was working on a very interesting project about developing optical devices to measure the formation of biofilms in water pipelines. 

Which project did you enjoy the most and why? 

Ferran Pujol: I really enjoy the project that I am currently working on. My colleague Mar Alvarez, a physicist from the IMB-CNM, and I work together on developing mechanical sensors that change colour when they move. They are called mechanochromic sensors and we are developing biological applications for them. At LMM, I am trying to use these kinds of sensors to measure the activity and growth of bacteria, with the goal of applying this as a fast technology for measuring the antibiotic susceptibility of bacteria in hospitals. I like this project a lot because we are involved in everything. We make the designs, fabricate the devices and test them. 

Why did you choose the LMM as your abroad work period?

Ferran Pujol: It was for two reasons. Firstly, I was looking for an abroad research lab in microbiology for my fellowship because it consists of one year abroad and one year in the IMB-CNM in Spain. While I was looking for European groups that do research with antibiotics and bacteria, one of the first laboratories I came across was the LMM. Secondly, one of my colleagues recommended the LMM because he had previously worked together with Professor Herman Goossens and other staff members from the lab. 

What do you want to achieve in future? 

Ferran Pujol: My biggest achievement would be to become an independent researcher. To get autonomy and funding for my projects, so that I can also hire a team and have the capacity to carry out more research in the future. 

What are some of your hobbies? 

Ferran Pujol: One of my greatest passions is birdwatching. I’ve been doing it since I was about ten years old. It is very relaxing yet exciting and a way to enjoy nature while disconnecting from everyday life. I also travelled a lot for birdwatching and visited many remote and breath-taking places that you normally wouldn’t see as a tourist. When I was little, my parents and I went to the Ebro Delta in Catalonia, which is a big wetland area with a lot of birds. There I discovered the diversity of birds and it was the start of my hobby.