DTU Aqua 1

Aquatic Science and Technology: this is also Engineering

About 2 and a half years ago I finished my bachelor in Marine Biology at University of Barcelona (Catalonia). After some experience working in the Marine Ecology Department of a Catalan research centre (CEAB), I figured out that I wanted to continue my education and that I wanted to do something more applied, but still in the field of marine biology. Even with my short experience, I could already realise how important it is in biology – probably in any field – to have also technical knowledge and understanding. In marine biology, for instance, very often researchers have to go out to the sea and carry out their studies in the field. This type of work involves using a variety of instruments (anything from plankton nets to sonars, including diving equipment, fishing gear technologies, all sorts of cameras and various equipment to culture marine species, just to name some). Moreover, systems engineering approaches are used (although not often enough!) to design and plan field activities. The need to gather more and better understanding of this typically overlooked “engineering” side is clear!

After some thinking, I decided to come to Denmark to study the MSc in Aquatic Science and Technology, at DTU AQUA, where I specialized into Aquaculture and particularly into the modern production systems called Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS), for which DTU AQUA and Denmark are known to be at the very top in terms of innovation and knowledge. Modern aquaculture is all about combining biology and engineering. To grow fish, you need to provide them with the right conditions and to do that you need to learn not only about fish but also about the production systems themselves. The master program included everything: learning how to design and dimension the grow-out units, the filtration units, biological treatment units, disinfection units, understanding what are the important parameters to monitor, the importance of correct piping to control the flow – and a very long etcetera – and all of it in the greenest possible way! It was exactly what I wanted! It was engineering applied to science!

The experience has been really, really good. DTU AQUA is a rather small department and even if some might see it as a disadvantage, I honestly think it is its main strength. You get to know everyone, both fellow students and teachers, as well as administration and technical staff so, unlike other big departments, you always feel you are REALLY part of the it. At the beginning of the master, they take all the new students for a weekend trip to the different facilities and research centres that DTU AQUA has around Denmark (super cool facilities by the way!). They also organise career events regularly where they invite the industry, consultancy companies, other researchers – basically anyone you can think of – to talk about their experiences so that you get to know what is out there once you finish the studies. Moreover, and this is actually the important part, once or twice a semester the department organises parties where everyone can join. So pretty much what happens is that you end up having beers and barbecuing (yes, in that order) with everyone – even the Head of the Studies! –. Besides the “coolness” of this, it also has advantages since you can do networking with the people that are working on your field!

This latter is what led me to the internship that I am currently doing. I have recently started working at Den Blå Planet (Denmark’s National Aquarium) in a project that aims at developing a captivity breeding program of ornamental fish species. There are two objectives: 1) close the life-cycle of some of these ornamental species in captivity (biological) 2) design/develop the necessary technology do it (technical/engineering). So again, applied stuff!

This is of course my personal experience but all my fellow students, some of which have specialized into Fisheries or Oceanography, can tell very similar stories on how marine and freshwater science get mixed with engineering. Just a teaser: there is one particular course, for instance, where you get to operate an ROV (remotely operated vehicle… cool stuff)! I don’t think any other student from any other department at DTU can say this…!

Aleix, MSc in Aquatic Science and Technology, Spain