Interview series "Introducing People@BAM"
Dr. Biwen Annie An, Biodeterioration and Reference Organisms Division
Annie, tell us a little bit about yourself. What did you do in "your life before BAM”?
I grew up in Calgary, Canada, we call it ‘Cow-town’, because it is in central Canada, surrounded by farms and oil fields. I did my PhD in environmental microbiology and got to collect a lot of field samples from the petroleum reservoirs. It was a great experience going into the field, being surrounded by nature, with a can of bear spray and sample collection bottles...
What inspired you to pursue a career in science? Do you have any role models and, if so, which ones?
I have always been interested in biology. I first became interested in science when my childhood best friend gave me a book about Darwin and the theory of Natural Selection. Overtime, I just became more and more interested in microbiology. When I met my former supervisor, Dr. Gerrit Voordouw, I was so fascinated with the concept of applied microbiology, as it opened a whole new dimension of integrative research. He is extremely hardworking, diligent, and brilliant, which are all qualities I aspired to achieve one day.
What does your research focus on, and what excites you most about this topic?
My research focuses on interdisciplinary microbiology, which integrates microbiology with material science, electrochemistry and analytical science. We all know those ‘bugs’ are everywhere, and what we are trying to do in our lab is to understand them through an application point of view. By doing so, we can examine their impact on energy conversion and infrastructure degradation. The most exciting aspect of our research is the unknown. There are just so much we could do with microbiology, and so much potential for us to explore.
Why research at BAM? What do you like most about your work here?
As I was finishing my PhD, I wanted to expand my knowledge regarding material research and different analytical techniques. When I saw the job posting of BAM for Department 4.1, I was really excited, and applied right away.
During my time here at BAM, I loved the amount of available resources and helpful colleagues that have aided my work. I have made some great friends here, and my boss Dr. Andrea Koerdt, is undoubtedly the most supportive person there is. Our team in 4.1 is also filled with amazingly helpful and friendly colleagues. So, I would say, so far, BAM has been great!
How has COVID-19 affected your research?
The COVID situation, no doubt, has set some obstacles on our progress. However, we were able to publish two papers during this time, and it gave us some time to restructure our research and expand into different areas. Although the number of virtual meetings is really taking a toll on me, but it helped us to start our own webinar on the impact of microorganisms on H2 underground storage. In total, we had 180 attendees and receive an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. We hope in the future we can try to arrange the meeting again. I am also now involved in the Scientific Technical Committee of ISMOS-8, the largest conference on microbiology and molecular in the oil and gas industry. This will be the first time I am part of this group and it is quite exciting! Even though it is hosted virtually, we have already around 125 registrants! But hopefully, we can attend meetings in person in the near future!
What do you like to do when you’re not doing research?
During my time off, I like to play board games with friends. I am a boardgame junkie, so finding new games to play is very exciting process.
If you should describe your job at BAM in one sentence – what would that be?
Metal-eating microbes are the powerhouses of the future!