“Such a pity that time is a linear thing”

Interview with Ellen Sterk, second-phase MCEC PhD at Utrecht University

Another talent* that has recently started working at MCEC is Ellen Sterk (31). In 2018, Ellen won the AkzoNobel Graduation Prize for Chemistry and Process Technology. Within MCEC, she will work on ‘Support, Alloying and Promoter Effects and Active Sites in CO2Hydrogenation’. This research project has the potential to increase large scale applicability of renewably produced hydrogen and reduce the negative impact of CO2point sources.

Where does your fascination for chemistry stem from?
Ellen: “Studying chemistry allows you to think about fundamental aspects of nature. I think it is intriguing that after hundreds and hundreds of years of people exploring ‘the nature of things’, there is still plenty left of that we do not know or understand.”

What will be your biggest challenge, working on your project?
“In principle, I’m not bad in time-management; however, setting a realistic time frame is not really my strongest suit. I tend to not choose between several tasks and ‘just’ start doing all of them with the aim of delivering complete work.”

In the next four years, what is it that you hope to learn, develop, or explore?
“In four years, I would like to learn a lot in spectroscopy as a scientific skill. I want to be able to use that together with a theoretical approach (DFT) to ‘attack’ the problems and questions that I will come across during my research. Sometimes I think it’s a pity that time is a linear thing, because I would like to learn a lot of things – and really own it.”

Do you see chances for collaboration with other MCEC PhDs or research groups?
“Being a new PhD, I still have to discover what’s swimming around in the MCEC pool. But I do already have a close collaboration with Ivo Filot. This originates from my master project – which was a computational study of the CO2methanation over nickel – and Ivo (as well as Bart Zijlstra from TU/e) taught me all the ins and outs needed to successfully perform this research. For my PhD project I’m also planning to perform other DFT calculations and Ivo is willing to serve as a go-to person.”

What do you do in your free time?
“During my free time I like to play soccer. Unfortunately, I currently have a long-lasting sport injury which really holds me back. I hope to be able to pick up sports in the upcoming season. Another hobby of mine is doing handy-craft projects like stone sculpting. For me it doesn’t matter that these projects take several weeks, sometimes even months. I find it very satisfying to work precise and to build something new using my imagination, creativity and patience.”

Ellen Sterk works at Utrecht University under the supervision of Bert Weckhuysen. You can find her profile page here.

* See also this interview with Michael Jenks, and this post about the recent ‘meet & greet’ of new MCEC PhDs in Utrecht.



27 March 2019