Passion and competitiveness is at the heart of being a researcher for Pit Losch, who describes life in research as a rollercoaster ride. The Luxembourg national, who completed his AFR PhD at the University of Strasbourg, is currently a Postdoc at Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, where he investigates and shapes materials for the future. We spoke to Pit about his life as a scientist.
Why did you decide to become a researcher?
“During my B.Sc. internship in biochemistry, I fell in love with this world, where passion, and an ounce of competitiveness, are key to willingly ‘survive’ long working shifts. Later experiences only confirmed this initial attraction – life in research is living on a rollercoaster, it makes you permanently discover and experience new ‘ups’, but also low ‘downs’.”
Tell us about your work, what is your research about?
“During my PhD at Strasbourg University, I had the chance to work on a variety of topics, all related to a special type of (nano-) materials.
“We designed porous (cheap) aluminosilicates, zeolites as heterogeneous catalysts. In heterogeneously catalysed chemical transformations, the purpose of using such materials is to lower the energy consumption to form a benign or valuable product B, from a hazardous or cheap product A.
“Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research, where I continue to investigate and attempt to shape materials for the future.”
What is a typical day like for you as a Postdoc?
“A typical day is composed of 70% office work, such as reading and writing publications, preparing conferences, and preparing experiments etc. About 30% of my day consists of laboratory work including for example experiments and analyses, as well as irregularly supervising undergraduate or PhD students.”
You’re a Luxembourg national abroad, what do you think about how Luxembourg’s research landscape is developing?
“I am proud to be a Luxembourger, and I have always advertised my home country’s evolving R&D abroad. However, in my opinion, the research topics are still limited, and thus I had to get my higher education and first experience abroad.
“The latter restriction was in fact the best thing that could ever have happened to me: seeing the world, meeting and collaborating with people from all over the world – from Brazil to China and South-Africa to Norway – was overwhelmingly enriching.
“Obviously my long-term plan is to eventually bring all of the acquired knowledge to Luxembourg. I would like to be able to combine the benefits offered by our multicultural and multilingual country with the experience and passion I acquired abroad, in order to perform fundamental and applied research.”
Last but not least, what would you like to achieve during your career in research?
“Stay passionate! If I lose my passion, I will quit and do something else.”
Spotlight on Young Researchers is an FNR initiative to highlight early career researchers across the world who have a connection to Luxembourg. This article is the 16th in a series of around 25 articles, which will be published on a weekly basis. You can see more articles below as and when they are published.
Luxembourg is one of many countries experiencing the arrival of asylum seekers and refugees that have been displaced for reasons such as conflicts or instability in their own country. Managing a research team for the first time, CORE Junior PI Lucas Oesch leads the project ‘REFUGOV’ at the University of Luxembourg, which looks at the accommodation of asylum seekers and refugees in cities and camps.
At KU Leuven, Luxembourg national Jill Kries is part of a research team driven by understanding how cognition and brain structure develop over time in language-related disorders and how this knowledge can be applied in a clinical or educational setting. We take a closer look at the work of the young team.
While solar panels appear on more and more rooftops, researchers are still developing ways to boost their efficiency. As part of her PhD at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), Indian national Hameeda Jagalur Basheer is developing alternative materials that can help capture the sunlight better and improve efficiency of solar panels.
Floods across the world have resulted in tremendous economic damage and loss of lives: better tools to predict flood rise and recession are needed. The biggest question facing researchers like Mohammad Zare is how to accurately simulate and predict this complex phenomenon. As part of an Industrial Fellowship between the University of Luxembourg and company RSS-Hydro, the Postdoc Works on improving the simulation and prediction of flash floods, with the goal to develop a decision-making model for flood protection in Luxembourg.
As part of her Industrial Fellowship – a collaboration between the University of Luxembourg and company Husky – PhD candidate Yamila Mariel Omar helps industry to monetize their proprietary data by means of big data analytics. We speak to the Argentinian national who also became a mother during her PhD.
Excessive use of fertilisers in agriculture has led to nitrogen pollution, and calls for bio substitutes are getting louder. PhD candidate Bella Tsachidou from Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) gathers scientific evidence on the benefits of biogas residues and their suitability as biofertilisers, while providing support for the modification of nitrogen-policies on European and global level.
In the current situation of legal uncertainty, PhD candidate Antonio Ancora’s research at the University of Luxembourg aims to improve tax certainty in the context of state aid investigation on Transfer Pricing transactions among multinational enterprises.
Paul Johanns works in a research field one does not read about every day: knots. As part of his AFR PhD at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the Luxembourg national combines high-precision model experiments, computation and theory to untangle the influence of topology on the mechanics of complex knots, particularly those used in surgical procedures.
Eating disorders affect up to 5% of people. At the University of Luxembourg, Dr Annika Lutz and Lynn Erpelding study the brain mechanisms that help form body image, and want to understand how eating disorders develop. Using a multidimensional approach, the team’s ultimate goal is to improve treatment for people suffering from eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa.
Growing up in Botswana and Zimbabwe, Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa did not see science as a career option. Fast forward a few years: Nathasia is studying Parkinson’s disease as part of her PhD at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg, and has co-founded a STEM initiative that was featured in Forbes.