On my first entry, I explained a little bit how I got this position so I think it would be nice to describe my research goals now. The main one is to develop a Decision Support System (DSS) to help water treatment decision-makers deal with emerging challenges for infrastructure upgrade. Nowadays, many micro–contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals, are not completely removed in conventional wastewater treatment plants. They are released into the water bodies without any kind of treatment and affect freshwater habitats. This could be attenuated by installing new state-of-the-art technologies which are capable to remove higher percentages of these micro–contaminants. From this point of view, one can imagine how important the link between university and industry is to successfully achieve this goal.
TreatRec is a European Industrial Doctorate funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme of Horizon 2020. The practical meaning of this is that the PhD students involved in the project not only will move between the academia and industry; we will also be working in at least two different countries. And to this particular experience I would like to dedicate today’s blog post.
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!