Christos Latsos unravels the possibilities of a red alga

The flavour of Rhodomonas salina

Five years ago, when he applied for a job with research group Aquaculture, Christos Latsos had never even heard of Vlissingen. The summery pictures of the promenade looked appealing, so he took a chance and made the move from Greece to Zeeland.

Paul Vader, editor HZ Discovery

The Netherlands was not entirely unfamiliar to him, because after his studies in applied biology in his home country, he attended an additional master at the WUR. The worldwide fame of the agricultural university had lured him to Wageningen. After completing his military draft in Greece, he came across the vacancy at the HZ. He has now gone on to exchange Vlissingen for Breda, because he prefers the larger city and because the promenade is a lot less vibrant in November than the pictures on the internet suggested. He likes it here; he is full of praise for how organised Dutch society is, but he does miss his family and friends and, especially during the Dutch winter months, the Greek sunshine.

Doctorate

Christos was not hired in a PhD position. For his PhD he is using data from ValgOrize, an interreg project about the valorisation of algae cultivation. Although the HZ offers a lot of support in the form of additional courses, he writes the scientific publications on his own time. For him, being forced to work from home was not all bad because he had been spending three hours per day on the train, time he could now dedicate to his PhD.

The subject for his research is Rhodomonas salina, a valued species of micro algae that is used for cultivating shellfish and crustaceans. The alga has no cell wall, making it easy to digest and the red pigment, which also serves as an antioxidant, increases the quality of cultivated products. Rhodomonas is fed to copepods (paddlefish), which are used to grow fish larvae, but is also fed directly to crustaceans and shrimp.

Furthermore, the alga has a pleasant umami flavour, which offers opportunities for making end-products with it as well. Christos is thinking of plant-based alternatives for fish broth or mayonnaise. Some of the experiments he has performed in the Sealab of the HZ focus on increasing the flavour of the algae. In addition, the goal was to optimise the cultivation of Rhodomonas. The alga is difficult to keep because the process is highly susceptible to contamination from other algae. Christos has just submitted his latest article. In March, he is defending his thesis. The title is: ‘Rhodomonas salina unravelled’.

The future

Asked about his plans for the future, Christos says that he would like to take on more responsibility within the research group. As a point of contact for the Aquaculture course he sees opportunities for building bridges between the scientific knowledge and the business world. It is a little early yet for the position of coordinator. Moreover, he doesn’t speak enough Dutch for that just yet. He also hopes that in the future he will be able to participate in new, innovative projects on the subject of algae. Preferably within the HZ, but if that isn’t an option then elsewhere too.

Christos defends his thesis 'Rhodomonas unravelled' on Tuesday 29 March at 16.15 hours at the University of Groningen. The ceremony will take place in the auditorium of the Academiegebouw on the Broerstraat in Groningen. Prof. Dr. K.R. Timmermans is Christos' supervisor.