Uniting chemical science and real life
“If I were working on a product like this at university, finishing it would take me over five years because of its complexity”
“I just want to know everything.” This was what Marco Cirelli’s motivation was to start studying chemicals at the age of only fourteen. Today, years later, he’s still working on that dream but now putting theory into practice. For his PhD, Marco is conducting research at TANATEX Chemicals for a couple of days. Which is an extraordinary chance, given the protective nature of the chemical industry. TANATEX Chemicals, however, decided to break with tradition and opened its doors to excelling chemistry students. After all, companies benefit from scientific research just as much as students do.
Putting (chemical) science and product research together
So, this is the story. Marco’s PhD project at the University of Twente is part of a three-year programme called the Cowet project. The project is part of the Marie Curie Initial Training Network, a European foundation that links universities and companies. Marco explains: “In short, the foundation makes it possible to make science applicable in the real world and make the real world more conscious about science.” It is this uncommon blend of the different natures of science and companies that make the project so extraordinary, especially when you look at the conservative chemical industry, that is not very keen on sharing its secrets. Marco is aware of his exceptional position. “I really feel lucky to be given this chance.”
Marco is working on the last part of the project. “I will finish my PhD within two years” he says. The pace of the business world has definitely helped him to stay on schedule. “Unfortunately, I’m a dreamer, and I can easily lose track of time,” Marco says laughing. “This means I am super ambitious and stubborn, which makes me somewhat unstructured as well. I want to know everything by heart, and I always want to know every single detail.” He therefore makes the perfect scientist, who often spends many years on finding the perfect balance between structures and molecules. Thanks to his collaboration with TANATEX Chemicals, however, Marco is in an advanced stage of developing a product to produce better specialised curtains. “If I were working on a product like this at university, it would take me over five years because of the complexity.”
Best of both worlds
TANATEX Chemicals and students like Marco make a wonderful team. Both parties bring expertise and experience to the table, while their different backgrounds form the perfect foundation for a hybrid development team. Moreover, Marco and TANATEX Chemicals share a strong ambition and a hunger for knowledge. For Marco it is wanting to know more about chemical structures and uncovering the unknown. For TANATEX Chemicals it is about creating better products and about motivating students to learn more about the industry they are so passionate about. By working together, everybody wins. Using TANATEX Chemicals’ experience and products, Marco gets the chance to execute more sophisticated research and add value to existing studies. By getting Marco on board for a couple of days, TANATEX Chemicals acquires more knowledge on chemical structures and ways to improve their product range.
It is all about the perfect fit
So far, the collaboration has worked out pretty well for both parties. As for Marco, it even changed his way of conducting research. He now knows he cannot always find exactly what he is looking for, which allows him to change direction and look for a better solution elsewhere. TANATEX Chemicals now has more complex information about the molecules and why they behave as they do. “I’ve achieved some ambitious goals thanks to the Marie Curie Foundation, but the one I’m working on now is definitely the most promising one” says Marco. That’s why he feels these kind of partnerships should be an important part of the future of chemical science. “It takes some time to match the best students with high-quality companies, but if you find the perfect fit, both parties benefit from the collaboration for years.”
TANATEX Chemicals is participating in the CoWet project to help students prepare for a future in the chemical industry. As part of the programme, Marco Cirelli is PhD student at the research group of Production Technology and Material Science and Technology of Polymers at University of Twente, collaborating with TANATEX Chemicals and Verosol. Together they give students the fundamental knowledge to make better products and to keep on learning, every single day. Do you want to know more about the project? Visit this website!
Sebastiaan Kolmschot, Marco Cirelli, Laura Berns