My name is Edith Mawunya Kutorglo. I am Ghanaian and currently a postdoctoral researcher at VŠCHT on mobility at the Technical University of Berlin within the framework of national OP RDE (Chemfells IV) funded program. Prior to this, I studied my bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana, and after this I worked as a teaching and research assistant in the Biochemistry Department for 1 year. Then I got accepted into an Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Membrane Engineering (EM3E) which was a collaborative program among different European Universities: I did my first semester at the University of Montpellier 2 (France), second semester at the University of Chemistry and Technology Prague (Czech Republic), third semester at the University of Zaragoza (Spain) and finished with my master thesis at the University of Bath (UK). Although I had the opportunity to pursue my PhD at the University of Bath in the UK, I decided to return to VŠCHT instead.
For me, choosing a place to spend 4 years of my life was as important to me as any other life decision that I would make. The semester that I spent at VŠCHT as part of the EM3E program was very influential in my decision to return to Prague for my PhD. Not only was it very fun and memorable experience but it was also the semester that I learnt the most. Unlike some other universities I had studied earlier on where the only form of assessment was one big exam at the end (on which your success or failure depends), the evaluation structure at VŠCHT was a combination of seminars, written tests and examinations, presentations, individual projects as well as weekly laboratory sessions. Moreover, most of the examinations were followed by a one-on-one oral examination to ensure that we understood what we had presented previously in the written tests. There were also field trips that put the relevance of the things we studied into professional perspective, while providing networking opportunities. For example, during the semester I spent at VŠCHT I had the chance to do an internship at MemBrain s.r.o. in Stráž pod Ralskem after an industrial visit to the company. I found this all-round education structure to be student-centered and of high quality so when it came to choosing a place to pursue my PhD studies, the decision was easy, VŠCHT stood out to me. It wasn’t surprising that our whole EM3E group coined the term “Pragadise” to describe our beautiful experience in Prague and VŠCHT as synonymous to living in paradise.
My experience studying the PhD at VŠCHT?
Moving to a new country without speaking the language and dealing with paperwork can be overwhelming, not to talk of the feeling of living far away from your family and friends and just trying to find a new normal life. But I would say the case of me coming to VŠCHT as a PhD student was completely smooth and easy. I would like to commend the team at the Department of International Relations working in close collaboration with the Department of Scientific Research and Development who made sure that I was integrated effortlessly. They supported me with visa application even before my departure from Ghana. After my arrival, they assisted with booking appointments at the Ministry of Interior and also the staff from EURAXESS Prague accompanied me to the appointments to apply for a residence permit and all the necessary paperwork required.
Being accepted into a PhD program at VŠCHT was a very fulfilling experience working in a very multinational and multidisciplinary research group led by Prof. Miroslav Šoóš. Looking back, it was demanding in the beginning considering that it was a new group starting out. But it was overall a great learning experience with many good memories. Apart from the research parts of the PhD, there were many opportunities to be involved in teaching laboratory courses, co-supervising bachelor and master students and attending international conferences. VŠCHT also offers the opportunity to participate in exchange programs through Erasmus+ or MOBI grants in order to get experience and training in laboratories abroad. I had the opportunity to visit ETH Zurich for a 3-month internship as part of my PhD studies which was partly funded by MOBI and partly by my research group where I gained new skills and competences. VŠCHT also announces internal grant competitions (called IGA) annually offering PhD students the opportunity to train their grant preparation/writing skills. I have been awarded IGA grants for 3 consecutive times equipping me with grant writing and project management skills. I would say all these experiences during the PhD program at VŠCHT has given me a big head start during the preparation of the proposal for my postdoctoral research and most importantly equipped me with the skills needed for implementing the project.
Postdoc Mobility to the TUB?
I am currently working on a project “3D-Composite Photocat” which focuses on the development of composite catalysts for CO2 conversion into fuels using sunlight at the TU Berlin. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been widely investigated for reducing CO2 emissions. However, CCS is currently an expensive and non-competitive technology and has been criticized due to the possible negative consequences (e.g. leakage) of storing large amounts of captured CO2 in underground reservoirs. Converting captured CO2 into new products and chemicals such methanol, ethylene glycol, bio-plastics or coatings for industry has a dual benefit of reducing CO2 emissions and producing alternative energy. My project “3D-Composite Photocat” falls under the umbrella of current research directed towards carbon emission mitigation and utilization of CO2 as a sustainable carbon resource. The project is within the framework of National OP RDE (Chemfells IV) funded program. Organizing paperwork and other stuff for my posting to Germany was an extremely difficult task considering that I am not an EU citizen. What that means is that extra permits had to be applied for, many papers had to be turned in etc. which was really overwhelming. But once again, the team at the Department of International Relations and the Department of Scientific Research and Development have been extremely patient and determined in making things work and I feel very blessed for their great commitment and assistance. I would also like to thank the European Structural and Investment Funds, OP RDE (Chemfells IV) program for funding my postdoctoral research.
I am grateful for the opportunity of spending 4 long years of my life in this charming city of Prague and meeting so many amazing people. The PhD experience in terms of academic, work-life balance and personal growth opportunities was priceless and I thank my supervisor Prof. Miroslav Šoóš and my supervisor specialist doc. Mgr. Fatima Hassouna for dedicating a lot of time and resources into my training. I am happy that I chose VŠCHT for my PhD studies and even more importantly, to still be working for VŠCHT. I am extremely grateful to VŠCHT, their dedicated staff, and the Czech government for investing so much resources and time into my training, and no matter where I find myself, I feel a responsibility to succeed. And to all the people working behind the scenes, I am thankful to you for your time and efforts.