Interview to Jules Rombouts – SIAM Alumnus (2015-2020), currently guest researcher at TU Delft and co-founder & CTO of Nature’s principles BV.
News April 4 2022:
After almost 10 years of research, SIAM can now count on a long list of alumni. All of them gave a valuable contribution to the project but some went even further. We decided to publish their success stories through a short interview, with the purpose to inspire current and future young scientists. The first answering our questions is Jules Rombouts.
1) During which years did you work for SIAM and why did you originally applied?
2015-2020. I applied to be a doctoral candidate with Mark van Loosdrecht on the ecology of fermentative microbial systems. I got selected for the position, started in September 2015, and managed to defend February 2020, just before corona hit Europe.
2) How would you describe your time at SIAM, both professionally and personally?
As a nice rollercoaster of events. I picked up many contacts, still valuable to me today. Martijn Diender was a colleague in SIAM, I am organizing a conference with him this year. Sebestian Lucker helped a lot,
we are still in the process of submitting a paper (already for 3 years, but hey, science takes time). Mike Jetten was really nice to meet and talk with, a very curious character. The previous project coordinator, Fransesca, was very kind. Marissa Boleij, Laura Valk and Leoner Guides da Silva were my fellow SIAM colleagues at TU Delft, very nice to work with them. Very talented and ambitious ladies, was a honour to work alongside them.
Personal and professional blended sometimes, as PhD’s ca n be a bit hectic, which was OK for me, even tough I really suffered a few low times. But also than, colleagues helped me to get back on track, and made it possible for me to submit a nice draft in October 2020 to my committee for the PhD defence. Like Laura, also Gerben Stouten (non-SIAM), David Weissbrodt really supported me a lot. Robbert Kleerebezem as well. And Mark off course. A also had nice interactions with Fons Stams.
All in all, many stories, many experiences, many high (and low) moments!
3) When was the time at SIAM you said “This finding may be important!”/ How SIAM paved the way to your current job?
Well, the L-lactic acid “trick”, which is now patented, and which (partly) enabled nature’s principles BV, came to light in 2018/2019, based on previous work, which was published in 2020 in Biotech and
Bioengineering. This was a nice result, very satisfying, we became able to “push” carbon into L-lactic acid, in open cultures, with a novel method, which bypassed all current literature, through which the innovation became patented, with 2 though international search reports by the EPO. SIAM helped through supporting financially to enable the research and my salary and those of my supervisors, but also through the community, discussions I could have, and also, just to give us confidence, that we are working on
cutting-edge science, though always being critical (Lucker was very good at that, still is likely).
4) Which is your current position and why did you choose it?
Guest researcher at TU Delft and Co-founder & CTO of nature’s principles BV.
I wanted to start this enterprise, to challenge myself into the field of entrepreneurship, corporate management and turning technology into business. I want to grow, get board room experience, strengthen general business and management skills, to work my way toward higher executive
positions in the industry, to really make impact on the world, using biotech and microbiology as inspiration. Becoming a board member at Dutch Shell NV, changing the course of oil and gas into biobased and renewables, through impact and management, can be a nice position for me in let’s say
15-25 years. I am 34 years old, I have some much to come still I believe.
5) Which advise would you give to current SIAM researchers in order to build a successful career?
– Be honest
– Show empathy
Those core values brought were I am now.
6) One anecdote/funny story happened during SIAM that still makes you smile
Too many to count.
We did a really fun day in a monastery in 2018 I believe, organized by the SIAM PhD committee, with games on the grass, crazy football with inflatable balls in which you roll over the grass, it went pretty wild I remember.
For Jules Rombouts’s full professional profile please visit