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How do you find a toxic needle in a chemical haystack?

The answer to this rhetorical question seems to be: you do not. And yet, the modern technology makes it easy to find one molecule among a billion of others, with the help of mass spectrometry. This precision is very much needed when critical pollutants in wastewater have to be investigated. That makes mass spectrometry one of the favourite techniques in the toolbox of an analytical chemist, nowadays.

Last time we talked about the "scientific correlation” between feelings and my current research field: the removal of micropollutants from wastewater. By the way, this relationship could be also explained from a different point of view:" what happened when I got this job”!

Past week I was lucky enough to spend 4 days in the AIWW. The crème, the state of the art, la flor y nata, the very best in water cycle technologies was there. Yet, I won’t be speaking about any of that here. Instead, I will speak about the small dialogues that arose between the varied communities of water professionals.

I was born in Rome, so I am Italian, so I am very romantic….. Well, yes I am Italian and so I am very good at cooking as well, or at least this is what They told me to make me happy….. But let’s stay in the field of emotions instead of the one of food! As I have just written, I am a very emotional person and due to this fact I like to see feelings behind things. But this current period of my life is characterized by wastewater and micropollutants, two topics which do not seem so connected to the field of feelings.

It was a strange coincidence that I ended up in Girona. After many years of studying and working in southern Sweden I had started to think that it was time to return to my hometown, 200 km above the arctic circle, which name in local Sami language happens to be Giron! But faith wanted differently, exciting research projects were not abundant in that little mining town and all of a sudden a very exciting possibility appeared in my weekly EURAXESS email: the chance to do an industrial PhD in the field of wastewater treatment at the University of Girona.

Strings of numbers run across the screen in the office, wastewater is gurgling, passing through a filter in the lab and in the huge room across the hall a spectrometer is whizzing, hungry again for the next sample to digest. Suddenly, a tiny, wicked thought emerges, announcing the meeting downstairs started two minutes ago. And here I am, in the thick of it all and loving it!

Accidentally, my name is also Pau (my full name is Vicent Pau, but I prefer just Pau. It is easier) and accidentally again, I also come from the Valencia region (Spain), more precisely, from Castellón. If you want to try the original paella, just visit our region!

Yes, that’s my new job title. Sounds really cool, I know. Funny how life changes, isn’t it? Just a few months ago my job title was “Sales Assistant” in a wee gift shop in Edinburgh (Scotland), ironically named “The wee gift shop”. That is until a phone call changed everything. Now I am a Marie Curie fellow working for Atkins, one of the biggest engineering consultancies in the world. I have been paying to learn things my whole life, now I get paid for it. I mean, really, it’s amazing how life changes.

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