Dr Vinod Kumar joined us in January 2017 and is a Lecturer in Bioenergy/Biomass Systems. His primary skills spans across biochemical engineering, microbial fermentations, industrial biotechnology, metabolic engineering and synthetic biology. Find out more in the interview below.

What attracted you to Cranfield?
I started my position in January this year. I was a Marie Curie Fellow in EPSRC/BBSRC Synthetic Biology Research Centre at the University of Nottingham and the fellowship was for two years. I was looking for job after the completion of my fellowship. I wanted a job where I could focus more on the research and do quality work. Cranfield University is one of the best universities and leading research institute of UK. I wanted this job at a level to what I am doing.

What are your areas of interest in the energy sector?
My research interests are bio-based production of fuels and chemicals from renewable sources. My research at Cranfield University will focus on development of second generation biorefinery, connecting industrial and agricultural waste streams to valuable products. 

What is your research background?
I did an undergraduate and Master’s degree in Chemistry and a PhD in Biochemical Engineering. I have 15 years of research experience including my PhD and post-doctoral experience (France, S Korea, and UK). In the last 15 years, I got exposed to various areas of biotechnology; biochemical engineering, microbial fermentations, plant cell technology, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology and industrial biotechnology. I worked on different biological systems - fungal, yeast and bacterial - and carried out research in multidimensional projects, aiming to develop low cost, energy efficient and sustainable bioprocesses for production of biofertilizers, biopesticides, biofuels and biochemicals.

What current research projects are you involved in?
At the moment, I am working on my first grant (New Investigator Grant by BBSRC) and UK-India call (Newton-Bhabha UK–India industrial waste challenge), as well as building up a network. My plan is to extend my research work towards development of integrated biorefineries. I am also supervising master's students for group and thesis projects, and have two PhD students starting in October.

What are your plans for future research?
I plan to write more proposals, expand my research group, bring in more work, and accumulate all these things in order to establish an Industrial Biotechnology Centre at Cranfield University

What elements of teaching do you most enjoy?
My bachelor's and master's degrees are in chemistry and thereafter I worked in the field of biological science. Therefore, I am comfortable in teaching subjects related to both the fields and falling in interdisciplinary areas. The following are the subjects which I would love to teach: biological science - biochemistry, intermediatory metabolism; bioinorganic chemistry; bioorganic chemistry; fermentation technology; industrial biotechnology; bioprocess engineering; bioenergetics & metabolism; biothermodynamics, bioprocess calculations;  metabolic engineering. Inorganic chemistry - chemical periodicity; chemical bonding; main group elements and their compounds; transition elements and coordination compounds. Organic chemistry - general organic chemistry, aromaticity; organic reactive intermediates; organic reaction mechanisms; chemistry of natural products; structure determination of organic compounds by spectroscopic techniques. Physical chemistry - chemical kinetics, chemical thermodynamics, electrochemistry; chemical equilibrium.

How have you found Cranfield so far?  
Cranfield University is a postgraduate institute and the major focus is on research, which is a very good thing. Plus, they have created an atmosphere that encourages us to deliver on research. I have heard from the people in traditional universities that they are so much a part of the teaching they can’t put as much effort into research as they want. It’s a business orientated university and I like that approach. I feel privileged to be part of such an institute.