UJEP does not hide the fact that in the future, following the example of the most prestigious universities, it would like to significantly strengthen the representation of foreign workers. What is less known, however, is that this process is running intensively and the first results have already arrived. At the Faculty of Environment, they even had to allocate a new office for young foreign research reinforcements. And how are the three postdocs who are involved in environmental biotechnology research in Ústí living and working? We tried to find out in a short online interview.
All three of them are concerned with how to use living organisms to remove undesirable substances from the environment. But the story of each of them is a little different:
The first foreign postdoc to come to solve this topic at the FŽP is Sebastiana Roccuzzo, Ph.D. She comes from sunny Italy, but she arrived to Bohemia from the northernmost parts of Europe. She completed her doctoral studies at The British University of Sheffield.
In the autumn of 2018 we got a new colleague, Karim Al Souki Ph.D. Like Sebastiana, he had a long previous experience abroad. He completed his master’s degree in his native Lebanon, but he studied for a doctorate in France at ISA Lille.
So far, the latest postdoctoral reinforcement is Kumar Pranaw, Ph.D. In his case, Ústí nad Labem is his first home outside India. However, he had the opportunity to gain experience in laboratories there for several years after completing his doctoral studies.
Sebastiana, Kumar and Karim
How did you get to this position (how did you hear about it, what did you do for getting it…)?
Sebastiana: I just moved to the Czech Republic from England towards the end of my PhD and I was looking for post-doctoral research opportunities in the field of environmental biotechnology. Hence, I got in touch with Prof. Trögl at FŽP with a spontaneous application consisting of my cover letter, curriculum and all relevant certificates. After an interview, I formally received an offer for a junior post-doc position within the SMART Project (note: part of project Smart City – Smart Region – Smart Community dealing with quality of life and environment).
Kumar: During 2018, I had more than 4 years of post-Ph.D. experience but all in India, so I was looking for some foreign country exposure and came to know about this position from the Euraxess (note: this position is supported by project U21-KLIP). The research sounds interesting so just applied through email with required documents and further given Skype interview for the same.
Karim: In 2018, while I was searching for a post-doc position, prof. Trogl shared with his colleagues the announcement of a position in the framework of the “New Phytotechnology for Cleaning Contaminated Military Sites” project. My former PhD supervisor was among the friends list and forwarded the mail to me. After reading the job description, I was more motivated and excited to apply. I applied, then passed the interview stage and ended up as a post-doctorate at UJEP.
What is your research topic here?
Sebastiana: My research was focused on the development of sustainable systems of micro-algae and bacteria for the removal of endocrine disrupting micro-pollutants from wastewater. My work led to the publication of the paper ‘New perspectives on the bioremediation of endocrine disrupting compounds from wastewater using algae-, bacteria- and fungi-based technologies’ (https://doi.org/10.1007/s13762-020-02691-3).
Kumar: I am working here on “Microbes mediated enhancement of biomass production and simultaneous remediation of contaminated soil”. My research includes, How a plant growth promoting bacteria (PGPB) with its heavy metal resistant specially lead (Pb) resistant nature, enhance the growth and phytoremediation potential of the Miscanthus x giganteus when grown on a metal contaminated land. How this PGPB interacts with the metal uptake and their translocation/ accumulation etc.
Karim: My research is divided into 2 sections (field and pot experiments). The main objective of the field experiments was to validate the positive impacts of the Miscanthus x giganteus (the model plant used in our laboratory for phytomanagement) on enhancing the low quality agricultural soil quality mainly studying its impacts on carbon sequestration. The objective of the second section was to determine the efficacy of miscanthus to remediate multiple contaminated soils (heavy metals, PAH and diesel) and monitor its reaction against the multiple stressors.
Kumar during Night of Scientists at UJEP and his “Starch eating heavy metal resistant bacteria” at workshop for children (source: facebook FŽP UJEP)
Are you satisfied with working at UJEP (in every direction which comes to your mind – money, equipment, colleagues…) and would you like to continue with cooperation with UJEP in future?
Sebastiana: Working at UJEP came with a lot of benefits, as the research grant I was on included money and equipment to support every aspect of research. During my time here I have established good working relations and I would be happy to cooperate again with UJEP in the future.
Kumar: Yeah, Quite satisfied with working at UJEP.
The monthly remuneration is absolutely good but if the government reduces the tax it becomes marvelous. J
The infra structure facility is GOOD but as in some areas its needs improvement. As I am a microbiologist and here at UJEP some microbiological equipment is very limited, otherwise every high-end equipment is available here for chemical analysis.
Regarding Colleagues, I am lucky here that I have surrounded by good peoples. When I was coming here from India for the very first time, I was little bit tensed about how I will manage there as I don’t know the Czech language (While coming From India, I just mug up only one sentence neumim cesky J) but from the airport only, I found a very helping hands in the form of Diana and David, who always ready to help me till date on both personal and professional fronts. It’s difficult to start a job when you are new to that place, but my research started with a pace and that is the reason, I have submitted two papers out of my, I year of work and credit goes to Dr. Hana Malinska. Without her help, it was little bit difficult for me to give a pace to my work. She not only helped me professionally but she becomes my very first friend in the Czech Republic. If I wrote a list of names, It will become a long list like Dr. Josef, Nella, Marek, Jakub, Janko, Hana B, Dominik, Karim and sorry If forgot to mention any name here, in short, whoever came in contact with me, I think all of them are very helpful and kind in nature.
As far as future cooperation with UJEP is concerned, I am always willing and open for that. Even I am trying hard to get some project funds that support my stay here in future.
Karim: Yes, I am highly satisfied with working at UJEP. The entire team is very helpful and cooperative and kind. I have been given a large margin of independency and support by my supervisor (prof. Trogl) who helped me to perform my experiments. Finally, yes I do want to extend my residence here in Usti and my work contract at UJEP.
How do you enjoy your stay (in general)?
Sebastiana: I enjoyed my stay at UJEP, and the freedom and independence I had to explore my research topic.
Kumar: In general, it’s good. I enjoyed my stay as you know I came from a place like Delhi, which is very populated and polluted both J. So far I find Usti as a very peaceful place.
Karim: I am enjoying my time here in Usti (workwise) and to a certain limit social wise.
The research is not done only in lab coat. We got Karim involved in work right after his arrival.
What do you like the most about the Czech Republic and on the other hand what did disappoint you here?
Sebastiana: Czech Republic is a beautiful country which gives many opportunities to enjoy nature and outdoor activities. The quality of life is high, and there is a very good work-life balance culture at UJEP. In my opinion, Czech Republic is doing a great job at modernizing its infrastructure, securing funding and attracting young researchers from abroad. However, the language barrier remains an issue. Hence, I would suggest that UJEP could provide in the future a Czech language course for foreign staff in order to improve communication and facilitate their inclusion.
Kumar: People are very professional here. No one will unnecessarily interfere here. It is very good and I like it. Freedom in research is always required. I want to add something here about two persons, the two ladies, whom I met here, who are present at the reception office at my department and another one is at dormitories where I stay. As I told earlier that I don’t know Czech and they don’t know English but whenever we met, we had a conversation and we convey our message through our body language. She speaks in Czech and I replied to her in English, and we understand each other. I always feel very happy after interacting with them. Here I found very helpful people around but as you know, every coin has two faces. Some time at the shopping market or on the streets, I found some stupid fellow too, whose gesture frightened me.
For disappointments so far I don’t have anything like a very big issue here for which I say I am disappointed, Yeah but I just want to mention one thing that for Visa renewal whenever I visited Foreign Police Office, I found it very difficult alone because no one speaks English there. The office is for foreigners and you don’t speak English. How they can expect a foreigner to speak Czech without living here for a longer time. J Strange but true. I have started learning Czech by the way ;).
Karim: I liked several things here in Usti. First beer J, it is of good taste and not expensive at all. The gathering and the spirit of people in the pubs is great too. I also liked food. Nature around Usti is very beautiful (lakes and mountains). I liked also the people here (mainly for their honesty). What I dislike is the fact that I am not able to speak in Czech (I thought it was an easy task, however I need to practice more).
Anything else you would like to tell us.
Kumar: For everyone, every part, or you can say every moments of your life is having several memories. And I love to make memories out of anything. I would like to tell you, I have very wonderful memories with me after coming to the Czech Republic. For example, within 2 days of my arrival, I went for trekking to see a frozen waterfall at Usti and due to snow and rain we faced lots of difficulties to reach there especially Karim and myself as we are slipping on snow while walking all the way to that place, and it’s very funny that after every 10 min people are waiting for us… like that I have lots of cherished moments here which become a sweet memories for my lifetime.
Karim: I would like to thank everyone at UJEP and hopefully to many years of cooperation, and beers to drink together 😉