Last week I attended a Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) networking event at KU Leuven. The MCAA is an association for current and past researchers benefitting from funding through Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and this event was organized by the MCAA BeNeLux chapter.
So far we looked at the causes of pollution as our intrinsic ability to create waste as a by-product of life and why the properties of certain pollutants like plastics or fine chemicals make them so useful yet dangerous for our planet. I promised you to finish on a positive note and to show that it is not all bad in the world of pollution control. It is time to take action and I invite you to look at the latest developments in the field together with me.
To fail! Nowadays we are surrounded by the myth of the efficiency. We are told that the “performance principles” is something we should ALWAYS keep in mind. This goes together with the meritocracy and the idea of “the more you get, the best you ore”. There could be some voice out of the choir saying something different, but they are basically overwhelmed by the western standards which are (they already have) invading the rest of the world as well. There is a narcissistic egoism which generates fights and conflict among us and the people around us, and these fight are mostly due to the self-success.
Finally, I find myself in front of the computer (I spend way too much time in front of a computer these days), just a few hours before I submit my first paper. Probably. I hope so.
Anyway! Before I give myself to the tedious, farfetched and overcomplicated process that submitting a paper has become, I thought I would write this letter of advice since, although it is too late for me now, maybe I can spare you some of the pain.
The first step out of many is done. And what do I mean with that expression? I only wanted to say that I have just sent the (first) draft of my first paper to my supervisors. And what is it about? So it evaluates the influence of uncertainty on the selection of measures to reduce concentrations of pharmaceuticals in rivers. And how do I feel? I feel that a PhD entails a lot of work (still ok, though)
Trying to answer why is there man-made pollution we previously looked at the causes of pollution and considered that each and every one of us is a polluter either by not knowing better or being inconsiderate in our actions (and an unethical percentage of us, unfortunately, by choice). Now let us take a closer look at pollutants that are especially important due to the severity of their adverse effects even at low quantities. Herein, I will concentrate on the chemicals and the pollution by plastics, since they are the most known and feared pollutants in the society.
I am now arrived in Belgium and have started my secondment at water company Aquafin where I will spend the next year and a half. It is quite different from my past year in the research group of Lequia at the University of Girona in terms of… pretty much everything. Not only is it another country with different culture and customs, but the atmosphere of the university lab compared to a company office is also quite different.
Back in May this year, I was invited to give a brief seminar on a scientific subject (to be discussed), in a Portuguese school for students with special educational needs. The school was located in Sever do Vouga, a small town one hour away from Porto, and a great place for sightseeing (as you will have guessed by the background of the picture). First take-home message: it is important to do networking, so you get invented to do cool stuff like this.
I still remember the feelings I had when I arrived for the first time in Belgium. My wife Marina was already here because the Msc in Pharmaceutical Industry she was taking started one week before mine. I arrived by car from Castellón, my hometown in Spain, and I was meeting her in a quite big street, Avenue Voltaire, in Schaarbeek, in the north-east of Brussels. We didn’t have a flat yet so we were staying in a very small, cold and rather too expensive apartment that we could rent per days. It was the only thing we found at the beginning because no one wants to rent you something here without an employment contract. We had to leave soon that place in order not to spend all our limited savings during the first month. At the end, and with the support of our parents (putting them in the contract as our back up), we luckily found something nice and affordable.