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.
It is a question a chemist gets to hear a lot. When I was still synthesizing pharmaceuticals and plastics it was asked with an accusing undertone, now that I prevent these entering the environment with a demanding one. And running danger of being branded something between evil scientist and too weak to fight the establishment I want to share one chemists brutally honest, yet in the end optimistic opinion on man-made pollution in the next three blog entries.
Before I started this PhD, I read countless forums and blogs, trying to figure out what the live of a PhD student was like. It was, of course, useless. No two PhD projects are alike, there are just too many variables. I knew one thing though, my next three years were going to be busy ones.
Dear diary, it has been a long time since I last opened your cover! If I described April as a busy month, I do not know which adjective I should give for July (laughing). During this month, I have taken part in a summer course, in a conference, in a workshop, I have celebrated my farewell party (3 times) and I find myself right now in the middle of my move to Belgium, in a hotel close to Paris, writing my next blog entry and sitting next to wife. I would like to say that I have learnt a lot from all these events and I just loved it.
Last week I went for dinner with a colleague who has returned to what is supposed to be his home country and me and a fellow local had a lot of fun noticing the cultural shockwaves he went through. He commented on the late hour for dining, worried we would not get up in time to work the next day and was concerned about the late hours we worked. I was quite amazed how much he had lost touch with his home country during just one year abroad.
The surface of our planet is dominated by water, but only a tiny percentage of that can be used by humans to sustain societies. Moreover, the usable water resources are not deposited equally over our planet. Put scarcity and unequal distribution together and what you tend to get is the human conflict. Yet, what is the real impact of water scarcity on the clash of people? For our species, which is caught between the Global Weirding and an overwhelming pollution of water bodies, that is a question worth asking.