People in the Spotlight – Professor Lorena Betancor

Curiosity was what lead me to Science. I was fascinated by the world of the small and the reason why living organisms functioned as such. In my early teenage years, I came to know several female scientists that along with women in my family served as professional role models. Those were the ingredients for a rather bold decision to pursue a Biochemistry degree in the early 90s in Uruguay where Law, Medicine and Economics seemed to be more secure options. Actually, I came to learn later that those daring decisions in my professional life lead to the most wonderful outcomes. Not only in terms of how much I have learnt from them but also on how many people and places I have met and visited that nurtured me as a person and a scientist.

Today, I am a Professor at the Department of Biotechnology at Universidad ORT Uruguay (Montevideo, Uruguay) and Associate Professor at the Department of Bioengineering at McGill University. Originally a Biochemist from Universidad de la República (Uruguay), I obtained my PhD from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and have 4-year post-doc experience working first for the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineer (Georgia Tech, Atlanta) and as a fellow of the Ministry of Science (Spain) at the Department of Biochemistry of the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK). I was also a research assistant at this University and a Ramón y Cajal Fellow at Instituto Madrileño de Estudios Avanzados (Madrid, Spain) before returning to Uruguay. In all these positions I worked and learned about enzymes and their integration with different materials for their in vitro use. While focusing on biocatalysis and enzyme and bacterial immobilization, I explored sol-gel strategies for the synthesis of different biohybrids materials with a particular focus in nanobiotechnology. I am now head of the Protein Technology group at ORT working on the use of biocatalysts immobilization for the development of environmentally friendly biocatalytic processes, biotechnological valorisation of industrial by-products, and biomedical applications. I sustain collaborations with colleagues all over the world, many of whom I met during my previous positions in Spain, USA and UK trying to apply the knowledge gained and aiming to humbly push forward the frontiers of Science.