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.
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.
Industry and research join forces on many fronts, including the sustainable use of natural resources. As part of his Industrial Fellowship between the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and land use company Luxplan, Postdoc Claudio Petucco works on developing a decision support system for enhancing and assessing the provision of forest ecosystem services.
Noémie Catherine Engel has just begun her researcher journey – and she has found her niche already: As part of her AFR PhD at the University of Bath, the Luxembourg national investigates the evolution of sex role traits in a small shorebird species in Cape Verde.
Are creative people better at regulating emotions, and are there cultural differences? This is one of the questions Henderika (Herie) de Vries wants to answer. Having already discovered that cultural differences impact the creative potential of children, the Dutch-Luxembourgish national hopes to understand more aspects of how our cultural circumstances can influence our capacity for creative thinking.
Climate change affects vegetation and water resources. In order to understand these changes, scientists use models – an abstract, mathematical representation of an ecological system. The challenge: Making accurate predictions under change, without ‘tuning’ models with data. We speak to Dutch national Remko Nijzink, Postdoc in the group of FNR ATTRACT Fellow Dr. Stan Schymanski at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), about his modelling work and the importance of an open science approach.
In school, we are taught three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. The focus of University of Luxembourg PhD candidate Anjali Sharma’s research lies between solid and liquid: liquid crystal. She studies them in unusual shapes that are no larger than the width of a human hair, yet they are considered as large by the scientists of the field. As part of her research, the Indian national got an opportunity for a rare experiment: Taking her research into a zero gravity environment.