Love of the sea brings Alexandra down from the Transylvanian mountains…and to Roslin
There can’t be too many Transylvanian marine biology experts in the world, given that it’s a mountainous region in the interior of Romania, so we consider ourselves lucky to be helping to support Alexandra Florea in her PhD at the Roslin Institute.
In fact, we are delighted to welcome Alexandra to Edinburgh to undertake her studies, supervised by Prof. Ross Houston, Dr Diego Robledo, Dr Tim Bean and Dr Christine Tait-Burkard, as part of an EASTBio CASE PhD studentship that we are partly funding. Over the next four years she will be completing a doctorate covering genetics and immunology of whiteleg shrimp, a highly nutritious protein source popular particularly in areas of South-East Asia and Latin America. Globally, shrimps account for about 18% of the worldwide trade in aquaculture.
As part of the programme Alexandra will have the opportunity to experience R&D in an industry setting through an internship at Roslin Technologies. We’re looking forward to welcoming Alexandra to the team where she will work closely with Dr Joe Mee, our leading stem cell scientist, to learn skills and techniques complimentary to her PhD interests and, with our commercial team, gain insights into what’s involved in translating innovative science to industry.
“Coming to study in Scotland had always been my dream,” she says, having left her home at 17 to study at the University of Aberdeen, where she undertook an undergraduate and then a master’s degree programme.
So how did a student from the mountains become so interested in marine life and aquaculture? Her original interest in high school was in paleontology, but instead, a love of scuba-diving led, naturally of course, to a desire to study sea life in an academic setting. Alexandra still takes to the water often off the Scottish coast and is a qualified scuba diving instructor.
Alexandra’s work is vitally important to the themes that we’re developing at Roslin Tech. Aquaculture in general, and shrimp in particular, can help plug the global shortage in protein. We are always looking at innovative ways to develop protein production, including recently investing in a Singapore-based insect farming business. In addition, her studentship helps us to build a collaborative relationship with the Roslin Institute’s Aquaculture team, who are leading research to improve genetics and health of several aquaculture species.
Alexandra will look at ways to tackle white spot syndrome virus, an illness which has close to 100% mortality for whiteleg shrimp and is estimated to have cost £11.5 billion since it was first identified in the 1990s. We wish her luck with her research!