New faculty profile: Victor Ujor explores fermentation and synthetic biology as tools for bioconversions

Victor Ujor joined the UW–Madison faculty in January 2021 as an assistant professor in the Department of Food Science.

What is your hometown? Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Enugu, Southeast Nigeria.

What is your educational/professional background, including your previous position?
I am a microbiologist by training. I hold a Ph.D. in applied and molecular microbiology from the University of Westminster in London, England. Previously, I was an assistant professor at The Ohio State University (Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster, Ohio).

How did you get into your field of research?
I became fascinated with microorganisms early on in high school, which led to a degree in the same field. While in graduate school, I began to think about climate change, population growth and the attendant waste generation. This led me to start looking into solutions to these problems. As a result, I decided to tailor my career/research goals going forward towards seeking solutions and answers to some of our ecological challenges, by deploying microbiological tools.

What are the main goals of your current research program?
To use microbial fermentation and synthetic biology as tools to develop novel solutions for efficient bioconversion (or sequestration) of organic wastes, pollutants, and agricultural residues to value added products.

What attracted you to UW–Madison?
The university has a reputation as a home for world class collaborative research and teaching, geared towards tackling some of society’s most pressing challenges. The draw to be a part of this mission led me to beautiful and cold Madison.

What was your first visit to campus like?
It was in June 2020. As part of my effort to decide on accepting an offer from the University, I visited to see things for myself.

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?
The ability to think critically, ask tough questions, and at the same time, embrace diverse ideas and opinions.

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.
Yes. The overarching goal of my work is to help forge solutions to some of society’s most biting challenges in the areas of biomanufacturing and waste management. This aligns with the Wisconsin Idea to take knowledge from the classroom into the wider society, as a tool for positive change and growth.

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?
Microorganisms are talkative: they communicate gregariously by means of chemical signals in a phenomenon called quorum sensing. Similarly, they are some of the most accomplished architects: they build convoluted and expansive edifices called biofilms.

What are your hobbies and other interests?
I am an avid soccer fan: I consume (play and watch) anything soccer with a voracious appetite. For those who follow soccer, I support the best soccer team in the world–Chelsea FC of London, England. If anyone is interested, we can start a Madison branch of Chelsea FC fans club. I love ping pong as well–not nearly as much as soccer though. When time permits, I am a keen traveler. I enjoy experiencing new cultures, places and people. I tend to gravitate towards soccer-loving locations.