Sonia, Rafael, Pilar, Khaldoun, Maha, Luigi, and Giovanni: meet the key researchers of the CEOMED project


Across the Mediterranean Basin, Sonia, Rafael, Pilar, Khaldoun, Maha, Luigi, and Giovanni are the main actors of our travel. They are working as specialists in the different fields of knowledge addressed in CEOMED. Despite the expertise and experience in researching activities, they still work and learn about their careers every day.

We start our travel across the Mediterranean in Tunisia. One of our colleagues there, Dr. Sonia Khoufi (Ph.D. in Biological Sciences), is an Associate Professor in the Centre of Biotechnology of Sfax. She has long experience in the Environmental Biotechnology field, and the numbers guarantee it:15 postgraduate students supervised and 20 research articles authored. Nevertheless, she ensures that CEOMED is enriching her career. Dr. Khoufi declares that “I was able to put my academic knowledge in practice and create connections among like-minded people who have already established themselves in the field I wish to be part of”.

Furthermore, Sonia states, “To be a member of CEOMED team project is not only important because it makes a good addition to my CV, but it also allows collaboration among colleagues from different countries and backgrounds. It is an enriching experience. Asking for their feedback gives me a fresh perspective on my research topic”. To finalise her impressions, she says that “I gain a lot from CEOMED, new perspectives for my research activities and a special set of interpersonal skills and possibly even lifelong friendships. For me, working on CEOMED project is an exciting prospect”.

Around 2,000 kilometers from Tunisia, we met with two other colleagues, Rafael and Pilar, in Spain. They are senior researchers in the National Research Council in Spain (CSIC). Dr. Rafael Clemente (Ph.D. in Agricultural Chemistry, Edaphology, and Geology) has more than ten years of experience in the institution carrying out more than 55 scientific publications and 20 books and book chapters. Dr. Pilar Bernal (Ph.D. in Chemistry) is the author of more than 120 papers and 43 books and book chapters. Dr. Bernal has more than 30 years of experience. They both will be in charge of evaluating and improving the digestate to create high-quality fertilizers.

When we ask them to describe the value-added points in economic, environmental, and social terms of this activity, Pilar establishes that “Instead of trying to obtain certified fertilisers, we aim to close the nutrient cycle in the digestate ”. Moreover, she added that “the digestate is not considered a fertilizing product, but it would be an excellent component for the production of fertilisers with no negative impacts on the environment. This substitution will have an economic impact in agriculture due to the reduction of costs in fertilisers; environmental impactsby reducing the emission of toxic compounds from fertilizer industries; and social impacts by safely recycling organic waste”. From this response, we were doubtful about these previous impacts in Amman and Sfax. Rafael intervened, “The establishment of the pilot will have a clear impact in both cities not only in the same way that previously Pilar mentioned, but also obtaining energy from waste and nutrients that will be recirculated, and reducing the impacts of the waste accumulation in the markets.”

Continuing with our travel to the middle of the basin, Luigi and Giovanni, both working at the University of Naples Federico II, are glad to receive our questions. Luigi Frunzo, engineer and Assistant professor in Applied Mathematics with 70 scientific research, will be in charge of optimising the model for anaerobic digestion. The other colleague, Dr. Giovanni Esposito (Ph.D. in Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering), has accompanied 100 Ph.D. and MSc students to successful works during its career and has 220 scientific publications. In their expert opinion, anaerobic digestion “is a challenging and innovative activity.” We asked for the barriers that they will found. Giovanni responded that “The main barriers are the operation and scale-up of the innovative proposed systems.” Luigi wanted to add that “the main barriers are represented by the problems in managing and optimization process.”

Finally, we speak with our most far Eastern colleagues. In the beautiful city of Amman, three thousand kilometers from Italy, two of our core researchers, Maha and Khaldoun, received our questions. Dr. Maha Halalsheh (Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering) has more than 15 years of experience coordinating projects and studies in the domain of anaerobic digestion and co-digestion. Dr. Khaldoun Shatanawi (PhD in Civil Engineering) has worked during the last 20 years in sustainable development and green growth. They will be in charge of the design and construction of one of the pilots of the project. As Amman citizens, they are the most indicated people to expose the general acceptation of CEOMED in their city. Dr. Halalsheh reveals that “To my understanding, acceptation is highly bound to the creation of new business opportunities. In this regard, employing a circular economy to organic fraction from waste is a promising  approach in which the private sector might be involved. The regulatory frame is well defined and supportive of the concept. CEOMED project may serve to pilot the concept and provide tools for decision-makers to enable the environment for private sector participation in managing this waste fraction”. Dr. Khaldoun added that “In Jordan, the public perception towards the waste to energy activities is constructive. Jordanians are aware of the challenges the country faces due to limited natural resources. Accordingly, their acceptance for projects and activities involving the generation of energy from waste is high”.

We want to thank all of our key Rrsearchers in CEOMED for this exciting point of view. The commitment demonstrated during the development of their activities is our main value-added. The CEOMED team is still working for a better world.

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