Students in bioengineering

Educating the next generation of researchers is important for sustainable science. Several master’s, bachelor’s, and guest students work daily in the bioengineering research group. Where do they come from, and how did they find their way to our lab?

Throughout this year, the bioengineering laboratory is welcoming 16 undergraduate and master’s students from six different countries, mostly from Estonia but also from as far as India, Pakistan, and Egypt, creating a diverse learning environment for the students. Involving students in research activities provides them with essential knowledge about scientific methods and hands-on experience that supplements their studies. Being actively involved, solving actual scientific problems, and seeing results inspires young people to advance further in their studies and explore yet-to-be-known topics.

Moreover, including the younger generation in active research benefits the research group as a whole. Our scientist, Srdjan Gavrilovic, who is supervising five students this year, commented: “Involving students in research is helpful in advancing more labour-intensive parts of research and exploring hypotheses.”

We also asked our visiting students, Sandra and Javeria, about their experience and how they found their way into the bioengineering lab. “We came to TalTech for one semester as part of the Erasmus Mundus scholarship. Petri-Jaan Lahtvee was our lecturer and he had an industrial project coming up with Fibenol, so he offered us this opportunity. We are just pursuing our master’s degrees, and conducting research together with an industrial producer was a wonderful way for us to explore both scopes – how research is conducted in a laboratory and how work is done in the industry. Having this experience allows us to explore both opportunities and decide whether we want to continue with PhD studies or start working in the industry. Our semester is now over, but we will stay until the end of summer and then continue our journeys.”

What an exciting era of life it is to travel and obtain experience within scientific groups internationally!

Three students defended their theses

Three undergraduate students successfully defended their theses that were conducted under the bioengineering laboratory.

  • Kristjan Pals, BSc in gene technology 2024 “Phosphoketolase gene knockout by CRISPR/Cas9 in nonconventional yeast Rhodotorula toruloides” supervised by Alīna Reķēna
  • Maive Hanni, BSc in gene technology 2024 “Comparison of genome-scale metabolic models for investigating lipogenesis metabolism in Rhodotorula toruloides” supervised by Alīna Reķēna
  • Oksana Tingajeva, BSc in gene technology 2024 “Rhodotorula toruloides’ exopolysaccharides: production, optimization and characterization” supervised by Rahul Kumar and Henrique Sepulveda del Rio Hamacek.

The students noted that conducting theses in the bioengineering laboratory gave them valuable experience on how laboratory work is conducted and good time management skills. They learned how to investigate metabolism in silico, improving their programming skills in Python. R. toruloides is a notable lipid producer and knowing the more specific metabolic pathways allows creation of more efficient microbial cell factories. The theses are part of a wider picture which aims producing oils such as palm oil and biodiesel in a more sustainable way.

Read the full theses in TalTech digital library:

  1. Fosfoketolaasi geeni väljalülitamine CRISPR/Cas9 meetodil mittekonventsionaalses pärmis Rhodotorula toruloides – TalTech raamatukogu digikogu

2. Ülegenoomsete metaboolsete mudelite võrdlus Rhodotorula toruloides lipogeneesi uurimiseks – TalTech raamatukogu digikogu

3. Rhodotorula toruloides’i Eksopolüsahhariidid: tootmine, optimeerimine ja iseloomustus – TalTech raamatukogu digikogu

Open positions
Master’s thesis projects in genetic engineering

Our lab will accept two master’s thesis students (local/ international/ Erasmus academic exchange).

The first project will focus on engineering of carotenoid pathway in non-conventional yeast Rhodotorula toruloides (as industrially important food colorants, pigments, pro-vitamins, and antioxidants).

The second project will focus on engineering of lipid metabolism in non-conventional yeast Rhodotorula toruloides (as industrially important macronutrients, essential fatty acids, biofuel, and industrial biopolymer components).

If you are interested, please contact us on

TalTech Science Day 2023 was a success!

The Science Day event at the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology took place on April 28, and our research group organised a workshop Future Food From Microbes for the 2nd consecutive time. This year, participants had an opportunity to take part in guided experiments in our laboratories on fermentation technologies and metabolic engineering, and engage in stimulating discussions with our team members. Anyone interested in molecular biology, bioreactors, or other biotechnology disciplines was offered something interesting.

For the participants, it was a perfect chance to learn, explore, and interact with scientists who share enthusiasm for science. For us, the Thanksgiving celebration served as a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the achievements and milestones we reached during the Science Day. We are truly grateful for the organisation by the department, which enabled us to create an engaging and enriching experience for the high school students. We look forward to future events that will continue to inspire and ignite the curiosity of young minds!


Open positions
Master’s Thesis Projects (2023 – 2024)

Our lab will accept two master’s thesis students (local/ international/ Erasmus academic exchange) this summer. These thesis projects combine aspects of chemistry, chemical engineering, materials science, and biology to develop engineered living materials for biochemical production. The first project envisions the fabrication of functional living materials, while the second project focuses on the design and application of flow bioreactors.

The thesis projects will require two semesters for completion, starting in the summer of 2023. Therefore, students expecting graduation in the summer of 2024 are welcome to apply. We will consider students having a materials science, chemistry, biology, polymer science, chemical engineering, food technology, biotechnology, or an interdisciplinary background.

More information and how to apply: HERE

TalTech Science Day 2022

On April 29, TalTech Science Day 2022 event took place at the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology. Food Tech and Bioengineering group organised a workshop “Future food from microbes”. The workshop was devoted to the production of bread and introducing yeast-based cell factories. Participants were introduced to bread baking technologies and experiments improving nutritional value of bread and beyond. The general feedback of the workshops was very positive, 86 % of participants graded it with 9 or 10 in a 10-point scale. More about the workshop, in pictures.

Altogether, Science Day 2022 at Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology offered 19 different workshops that were attended by 89 participants. Majority of workshop participants were high school students, but almost every 4th participant was from outside educational system. Next time it is going to be more focused on high school students and is planned for the next year 2023.

Students of the MSc. Biological and Chemical Engineering for a Sustainable Bio-economy

Four Erasmus Mundus Students of the MSc. Biological and Chemical Engineering for a Sustainable Bio-economy joined our group until June. Ariyan Amirifar, Belén Fernández de Caleya Ramiro, George William Ssendagala and José Gustavo Varona García will develop a metabolically engineered yeast strain of R. toruloides that will use lignocellulosic biomass (Brewer’s Spent Grain – BSG) as a substrate to produce monoterpenes. The produced terpenes shall be used (instead of hops) during fermentation to produce the distinctive beer flavor. This project will ultimately contribute to circularity in the brewing industry by supporting the valorization of BSG to create a useful product that can in turn be used by the same brewing industry.

Seminar by Dr. Francesco Gatto, co-founder and CSO of Elypta

In this seminar, Dr. Francesco Gatto illustrates how his group investigated regulation of cancer metabolism using systems biology approaches leading to the discovery of potential cancer biomarkers for early detection. The talk further focuses on the challenge to translate fundamental discoveries in clinical practice and the foundation of Elypta – a start-up university spin-off that is executing this transition.

PhD seminar

On Friday 18th of february, our three freshly started PhD students gave a seminar to introduce their working plans.

  1. Alina Reķena – Advanced modeling approaches in yeast

The presentation introduced basic principles of constraint-based modeling together with advanced modeling techniques, such as proteome allocation and thermodynamics-based constraints. Current project is focused on model development for non-conventional yeast Rhodotorula toruloides.

2. Gabriel Luz Chaves – Engineering R. toruloides for improved lipid production

In this seminar was discussed the use of non-conventional yeast, R. toruloides, for the production of lipids and the application of synthetic biology tools for strain improvement.

3. Henrique Sepulveda – Development of 3D printed engineered living materials for growth-decoupled biochemicals production

The topics of 3D printing and engineered living materials for biochemicals production was introduced in this seminar. Followed by a talk about our current research goals for the Ph.D. Project.

From left: Gabriel, Henrique and Alina


Feel free to watch the seminar record

Pilot up-scale cultivations

In the course of the PERFECOAT project, Nemailla Bonturi and Petri Lahtvee visited Technical University of Munich (TUM, Straubing, Germany) to perform for the first time to our knowledge industrial scale (30L bioreactor) cultivations of R. toruloides in xylose-rich hydrolysate (Fibenol, Estonia).

Slide Anja Schmid (TUM), Torben Hüsing (TUM),
Petri-Jaan Lahtvee (Taltech),
and Nemailla Bonturi (Taltech)
Slide Redish frozen pellet of R. toruloides
biomass containing high content of carotenoids.
Slide Coating material produced
using R. toruloides biomass
as binders.

Opinion article in the Estonian cultural magazine Vikerkaar

The Estonian cultural magazine Vikerkaar published a series of opinion articles on novel technologies influencing humans in the coming decades. Associate professors Erkki Karo and Petri-Jaan Lahtvee from TalTech discussed the influence of biorevolution and synthetic biology – ‘The third coming of biorevolution in the era of the Green Deal’.

The article is available (only in Estonian) here.

New collaboration supported by Yeast4Bio

In autumn 2021, Alina Rekena from our group was visiting Heinemann Lab from Molecular Systems Biology research group led by Prof. Dr. Matthias Heinemann at University of Groningen, the Netherlands, to work on the development of thermodynamics-based computational models for non-conventional yeasts. The visit was supported by Yeast4Bio Short Term Scientific Mission program. Alina learned how to develop computational models integrated with biochemical thermodynamics, including Gibbs energy balance, and worked on a core metabolic model of Rhodotorula toruloides. The productive collaboration with Heinemann Lab will enhance the competences in systems biology of our group, help to study metabolic properties of non-conventional yeasts and to use computational tools to design efficient yeast-based cell factories, which is the topic of Alina’s PhD studies.

Estonian Bioeconomy conference

Collaboration project between TalTech, University of Tartu and Life-science University together with three Estonian ministries  – ADDVAL-BIOEC – Added value in Estonian bioeconomy – with a strong contribution also from our Bioengineering group is finishing. The collected research will be presented at the conference on October 26th, 2021, at Erinevate Tubade Klubi, Telliskivi 60-A1, Tallinn (event language is Estonian).


More information:

Register to the event:

Guest seminar by Sergio Bordel

You are welcome to participate in the following guest seminar.


Prof. Sergio Bordel Velasco

Department of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology, University of Valladolid, Spain

Title: Metabolism of methanotrophic bacteria. A Genome-Scale modeling perspective.

When: Thursday, October 14th at 4 PM

Where: SCI-028 (on-line link will follow)


Link to publications:

Host: Assoc. Prof. Petri-Jaan Lahtvee

Yeast4Bio Training School

On September 13-17h happened the first Yeast4Bio Training School financed by the COST agency and  coordinated by Jose L. Martinez (Associate Professor and Head of Fermentation core in the Technical University of Denmark). Our group member, Gintarė Liudžiūtė learned there fundamental knowledge of fermentation design and analysis applied to non-conventional yeasts which are used as cell factories for high-value compounds production. Attending to the first Yeast4Bio Training School was a significant personal and professional opportunity to develop scientific competences into our group.