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The biggest challenge is to be true to yourself

René Herrera Díaz, guest researcher at the InnoRenew CoE; research area: wood modification

  • Where were you living in childhood and where do you live now?

My first memories were when I was living with my grandparents in a countryside house. I spent my childhood with them until my grandfather passed away. Then we moved to a crowded city, and, with this drastic change, I learned being a child to distinguish between two very different types of scenarios. Now I’m living in Koper, a quiet port town which I cannot compare with any of my childhood memories.

  • What have you studied and what were the motives for your decision?

I have studied different areas and I’m still studying languages and everything that attracts me. But, officially, I started with environmental sciences, then forestry engineering, engineering in renewable materials and the last six years biorefinery processes in the chemical engineering department, where I did my thesis on wood modification.

  • How would you describe your work to someone outside your field?

In the simplest way, associating it with common concepts; for example, with cooking recipes, which really have a lot in common!

  • What does your typical working day look like?

Random. I could be all day in the laboratory or sitting in front of the computer or learning something new or many other variants, just depending on the specific moment.

  • What makes you excited about your work?

The thought that there are always new fields to explore and that you will always find people to whom you can contribute somehow and vice versa.

  • And what is the biggest challenge at your work?

We always have small or big battles of self-improvement. I believe that the biggest challenge is to be true to yourself. Work shouldn’t take it away from you; this way, you can enjoy your work and keep being fascinated by what you do.

  • Which scientist or scientific achievement are you fascinated by and why?

I like the unknown scientists, those that you discover after going deeper into specific topics and who have probably had the same questions as you, maybe while they were looking to do the same thing as you.

  • Tell us about the work of art (books, music, movies, theatre, dance, visual arts) that has a special place in your life.

I like different expressions of art; for example, street art can tell you many things about places and cultures as well as the music, which can guide you throughout your daily journey.

  • What have you read, listened to, or watched lately?

I was reading “The Master and Margarita”, a classic novel by Bulgakov, and “1984” by Orwell. But better to read it just for fun, not for getting paranoid.

  • Describe your very first impression of Slovenia.

I saw a beautiful country with impressive mountains and very green. My first visit to Slovenia was to Rogla.

  • What do you like about Slovenia and what do you miss most from your homeland?

I like the diversity of landscapes and the variety of options you can find, even if it is a small country. I miss my family and friends more than the places, but I sometimes miss the Spanish fiesta.

  • Which place on the Slovene coast do you like the most?

I think that all of them have their own charm and none is better than others.

  • What makes you enthusiastic?

Any sport activity makes me feel good, also traveling to new destinations.

  • Characterize your life’s guidance or an important realization (or epiphany) you have experienced.

I think being where I want to be and the freedom to choose my way of life is something that satisfies me.

  • What does the charm of wood mean to you?

If you are in a forest, you can feel its energy; if you use it as a material, you find its versatility and complexity. It is a unique material, so simple and so complex at the same time.