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.
An increasing number of systems are now controlled by artificial intelligence (AI): Autonomous vehicles – such as drones or satellites – can be deployed in difficult to access places and used to gather information in real-time. Autonomous systems can also be used simultaneously and cooperate to reach better performances compared to using only one device – but not without challenges: it is no easy task to programme these entities to behave collectively as we want them to. We speak to computer scientist and researcher Florian Felten about his research in this area and the associated challenges.
When Eric Finn Schaanning was featured in Spotlight on Young Researchers in 2017, he had just defended his AFR PhD on fire sales and systemic risk in financial networks at Imperial College London. In 2017, Eric attended the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting and in 2018, won an FNR Award for his PhD thesis. 5 years after his PhD, we catch up with Eric, who has been working on cyber risks, financial and regulatory stress tests as well operational risk management – a career spanning Norway, Frankfurt and Zürich – and reflect on the value his PhD has added.
Current engineering systems have an issue: It is fragmented – process, Piping and structural design are carried out by separate teams and involves an error-prone exchange of data. A research collaboration involving public research and industry is tackling this issue by creating a unique central data hub of a plant to which all teams have access, with promising effects on efficiency.
A type of insect known as whitefly spreads plant viruses and has devastating effects on the vegetables that we depend on and thanks to climate change their negative impact on agriculture is set to increase in the future. Current methods to protect crops depend on delicate relationships between whiteflies and their natural enemies, our crops, and microbial communities, a delicate balance threatened by climate change. Researchers are working with a ‘climate in the lab’ to get a better understanding of what could happen, with the ultimate goal to generate solutions to protect food security.
Global supply networks are more complex than ever, and recent global events have shown how susceptible society is to unpredictable disturbances. Scientists are working to understand the effect disruptions have on the sustainability of productive systems with the goal to provide solutions to support decision-making.
Is it possible to use mathematical indicators to alert about natural disasters and help in the early detection of disease and health issues? Over the past 15 years, scientists have been working on bridging mathematical theory and empirical evidence to do just that. To move the science forward, a key challenge is the underlying mathematical problem, as well as determining how the indicators should be applied.
Unhealthy lifestyles – unbalanced diet and physical inactivity – are the main factor in the leading cause of death in the world: cardiometabolic disease. Our socioeconomic environment plays a role in these lifestyle choices. Over a 9-year period, researchers are looking at how socio-economic and physical environmental characteristics of residential neighbourhoods shape our physical activity, nutritional behaviour and cardiometabolic health.
Always has literature played a major role in the construction of any national identity – yet, Luxembourgish literature is very little known. Researchers are exploring the country’s literary identity, from a Francophone and a gendered perspective, with a particular focus on female writers.
Online services are designed to offer great user experiences and accommodate our needs. They can also use manipulative design strategies to push us to disclose our personal information, purchase goods and subscriptions or spend an excessive quantity of time on apps and games. Learn about ‘dark patterns’ and an interdisciplinary research effort to free the web from manipulation.
When we wrote about Miguel Olivares Mendez in the 2017 edition of Spotlight on Young Researchers, the researcher was working on an FNR JUMP project, focussing on developing algorithms for autonomous drones. The robotics scientist has continued to build his research career in Luxembourg – 5 years later, Miguel is a Professor leading a research group with a focus on space robotics.