International Day of Women and Girls in Science: meet TITAN’s women

February 11th is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and we could not let this day pass without highlighting some of TITAN Project’s very own power-women. Let us introduce you to some of the (many) women that make this project successful.

Isabelle Guelinckx

“Women are still not equally present and treated. I hope that one day science is no longer a boy’s thing, or a girl’s dream. Science is for everyone.”

Coming from a family of doctors, Isabelle was eager to pursue an academic education in biomedical science, specializing in nutrition. While in Danone Nutrition Research, she witnessed how research stimulates innovation and can contribute to the development of health products. As current Executive Director at ILSI Europe, Isabelle follows a mission she believes in; creating collaborations between industry, academia, and public sector to secure a safe, nutritious, and sustainable food supply for all.

Within TITAN, Isabelle is the project Coordinator.

Raquel Rodríguez

Impossible is nothing. You can do it, just trust in yourself!”

Raquel has a PhD in Chemical Engineering and is currently working in the technological center AZTI. She is researching the use of novel technologies to develop new food processes for optimal quality and sustainability, focusing on gentle processes using microwave technology.

Raquel is part of TITAN’s WP5, developing a pilot to improve sustainability. Here, she focuses on developing a code that includes different quality and distribution parameters to make it possible to create a common language for growers and processors. This will be implemented through a digital platform, leading to a reduction in fruit and vegetable waste.

Idoia Olabarrieta

“It’s important to teach our female youth that it’s okay to say ‘yes, I am good at this,’ and not hold back.”

An Industrial Engineer with a PhD in Polymer Technology, Idoia currently works in the technological center AZTI. She is researching the use of smart digital tools for the 4.0 food industry, with a special focus on non-destructive smart sensors for monitoring the quality of food products.

In TITAN, she is part of WP5, working on the development of a common language (ontology) for fruits and vegetables. This will be implemented in a platform for sellers and buyers.

Vania Patrone

“Celebrating women and girls in science is not only to promote equal opportunities and boost women’s advancement in scientific careers. It is also about raising awareness that woman’s role in science and technology is evolving, and we are all part of the change.”

Vania is an Associate Professor of agri-food microbiology at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. She holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences and a Ph.D. in Pharmacy. Her research interests are microbiology of fermented foods, food microbial diversity and phenotypic and genetic characterization of food-borne microbes, prebiotics/probiotics, and the gut microbiome. She is a proud member of the UCSCS Gender Equality Plan (GEP) Team and actively involved in the promotion of initiatives and measures to foster inclusion and equity in education.

Within TITAN, her research activities focus on the development of DNA-based analytical approaches for food safety and quality assurance, with an emphasis on the use of high-throughput sequencing to detect foodborne pathogens in plant food. She is co-leader of the Stakeholder Board on the microbiological aspects of food safety.

Clara Talens

“I believe education in food science, food processing, and nutrition can help future generations make better decisions regarding the food they eat, reducing the risk of suffering from NCDs and food-related health conditions, as well as contributing to a more sustainable and coherent food system.”

Having earned an Agricultural Engineering degree from Universitat Politècnica de Valéncia (UPV), Clara embarked on a remarkable journey of scientific exploration in Ireland for four years. Her career reached new heights as she assumed the role of senior researcher at AZTI, after completing her PhD in Food Science, Technology and Management from UPV. Since then, her research activity has been focused on collaboration with companies in the sector through innovation projects as well as the coordination of European proposals for research, development, and innovation funding.

Clara is part of TITAN’s WP6, where she works in developing healthy nutritional habits for kids, leading a systematic review of randomized controlled trials about mobile and web-based interventions for promoting healthy diets, preventing obesity, and improving health behaviours in children and adolescents.

Sonia Nieto

“Yes we can, never give up!”

With a bachelor’s degree in food science and technology, a master’s degree in food security and biotechnology, and a PhD in chemometrics applied to the food industry, she currently works in the technological center AZTI. She researches the use of smart sensors (with special interest in NIRS) and chemometrics for quality and authenticity applications.

Sonia is a researcher in TITAN’s WP5, working on the development of a common language for growers and purchasers of fruits and vegetables.

Sofia Maria Lilli

“Digitization is an essential tool for promoting environmentally and economically sustainable agriculture, preserving our environment and ensuring food security for people.”

Sofia holds a master’s degree in rural and sustainable development from the University of Perugia. Before becoming project manager at Agricolus, she worked at the Centre for Agricultural Development focusing on digitization, sustainability, and rural development projects. In 2021, she won a research grant on carbon farming and carbon mitigation from the Bioeconomy Section of the Department of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences.

Sofia represents Agriculos as project manager of TITAN, monitoring the project to ensure it achieves its objectives. In addition to the project activities, she is responsible for working with the farms involved in the project to foster the use of digital tools, in particular, Decision Support Systems to support farmers in decision making, based on real data to increase the environmental and economic sustainability of farming activities.

Marta Bisaschi

“Think of the future that awaits you, think about what you can do and do not fear anything.” Rita Levi Montalcini

Marta is a PhD student at the Agrisystem doctoral school of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Following a strong passion for research, laboratory work and general activities aiming at ensuring safe and nutritious food for everybody, she decided to start a PhD program in Food Microbiology working in TITAN.

She is part of a pilot aiming to develop and validate new methodologies for the monitoring of food safety in plant-based products, with a particular emphasis on the applications of third generation sequencing and untargeted metabolomic technologies. The main objective is to provide fast, robust, and affordable analytical tools allowing for accurate characterization of risks associated with either microbial or chemical contamination. This will support companies in the management of quality system controls, strengthening consumer trust and maintaining a high reputation for brand and company reliability.

In September 2023, she displayed the first part of her research in a poster exhibited at the 7th International Conference on Microbial diversity, for which she was awarded Best Young Researcher.

Marta Prado

“All of us should maintain the curiosity and ability to wonder from childhood, seeing life through the eyes of a child allows us to be amazed and discover new things daily and that is the greatest ingredient of happiness.”

With a PhD in Food Science and Technology, Marta currently holds a position as distinguished researcher at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Marta has launched Neoxenica, the spin-off of the Food Quality and Safety group, of the International Iberian Nanotechnology Laboratory (INL) and regularly collaborates as external expert with international institutions such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or AOAC, among others. Her research interests are the development of new, fast, and reliable detection methodologies combining molecular biology and nano- and microfabrication technologies for different applications, particularly in the field of food safety and quality, but also for other biological samples. Within TITAN, Marta partakes in two food safety pilots. One focuses on traceability and authenticity in the olive supply chain, in which they combine miniaturized devices for the authenticity of olive varieties with blockchain to ensure the traceability of this value chain. The other specializes in detecting the presence of undeclared food allergens in the food industry by combining miniaturized analytical devices with AI (AITalentum).

Gender equality is an important aspect of the TITAN project, making sure that the presence of women is well represented, aiding to increase the success of the project with their valuable experience and expertise.