Aarhus University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Engineering

Research field

Industrial Biotechnology, Biocatalysis, Bioprocess Engineering

Research leader

Selin Kara

Dr.-Ing.habil., Associate Professor, born 1981

Project title

Photobiocatalytic oxyfunctionalization in continuous flow (PHOTOX-f)

What is your project about?

Continuous flow technology has been widely applied in synthetic organic chemistry for the synthesis of high-value-added chemicals and it has attracted a great deal of interest in biocatalysis. On the other hand, the idea of light utilization through a combination of photo- and biocatalysis enables the “green” synthesis of chemicals. My ultimate goal in PHOTOX-f project is to develop a highly productive photobiocatalytic synthesis of an active pharmaceutical intermediate (API) in continuously operated miniaturized flow bioreactors. The projects' research questions concern the design of heterogeneous photobiocatalysts, the development of multi-phasic media, and demonstration in continuously operated tubular bioreactors.

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

I became fascinated by enzymatic catalysis and bioprocess engineering during my studies and my research stays in diverse working environments in Turkey and in Europe. The potential of oxidoreductases (an enzyme class that has been mostly used for the synthesis of active pharmaceutical intermediates (APIs)), triggered me to shape and focus my research on the use of these enzymes more-and-more. When compared to the high productivities in chemical synthesis, biocatalysis has still some challenges which is why I have been using my knowledge to link biocatalysis and bioprocess engineering in order to develop highly productive enzymatic reactions to make enzymatic synthesis (more) attractive.

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

A key challenge of the project is to balance the activities of photo- and biocatalyst, as they need to work efficiently and together. For this reason, PHOTOX-f will first focus on spatial arrangements of photo- and biocatalyst. The poor water solubility of hydrophobic substrates hampers high productivities and hence the perspective here is to develop multiphasic systems. However, this will create another scientific challenge, which is mass transfer limitation. Hence, the project represents a multi-parameter question and continuous flow technology will guide for faster parameter optimization in miniaturized scales. Overall, the parameters of PHOTOX-f have to be handled in a holistic manner to combine photobiocatalysis and continuous flow technology in an efficient way for technical implementation.

What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

The PHOTOX-f project will demonstrate the sustainable and productive manufacturing of high-value-added chemicals by combining two fields: Biocatalysis and Bioprocess Engineering. This will highlight the importance of interdisciplinary research for society's self-understanding. The industrial partner supporting the project shows already that the project's potential is foreseen and hence the impact will be stronger, wider and more visible with the designed intersectoral cooperation. In addition, the two researchers in the project will have research mobility, which - by exploring research environments from other disciplines - will expand their horizons and increase their employability in the future.

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

First of all, being selected for the Sapere Aude program is a very prestigious recognition. The grant will enable me to initiate a 3-years’ exciting project for the photobiocatalytic synthesis of an active pharmaceutical intermediate in flow reactors. Within the granted project I will closely work with two academic- and one industrial partners. I am convinced that the results obtained from the project will be published in high-ranking journals which will strengthen my academic profile. On the other hand, with the help of this program, I will be able to identify new research questions that will lead to further grant applications.

Background and personal life

My favorite activity outside work is doing sport in the gym. When the weather allows, I prefer to be outside in nature having long walks. I enjoy reading books, especially about multicultural environments to be able to navigate across cultures which help me not only for my work but also for my private life. My husband is from Germany and my mother-in-law is from Finland; therefore, it has been very interesting and very educating to live in such a multicultural environment. I moved from Hamburg to Aarhus in July 2018 and I have been enjoying living in this beautiful city.  And, our (spontaneous) weekend trips we try to discover other beautiful Danish cities.

City of your current residence

Aarhus and Hamburg (cross-border commuter)

High school

Adana Science School and Atatürk High School