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I like when things are appearing under my hands

Jan Včelák, guest researcher at InnoRenew CoE, employed at University Centre of Energy Efficient Buildings (Univerzitní centrum energeticky efektivních budov); main area of research: electronic and sensor system design


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

I was born in Kladno, near Prague. I spent my childhood in the house of my grandparents and a lot of time in the workshop of my grandpa, who was a joiner. I studied in Kladno and then at Czech Technical University in Prague. In 2007, I said to myself: I am fed up with living and working in Prague; so I moved to live and work in Cork, Ireland for five years. In 2012, I came back to the Czech Republic and bought the house of my grandpa to live in Kladno again.

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

I studied electronic and instrument engineering. I always like when things are appearing under my hands and bringing them to life.

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

Designing custom electronic systems from the idea to premanufacturing prototypes, creating new innovative products, prototyping the products and assuring that the products do and communicate what is required.

I hate doing research for research or something that is not applied in the end!!

  • What does your typical working day look like?

There is no general pattern for my days. Almost every day is unique since I have a lot of meetings and events out of the office, business trips, etc. Some days start at 3 a.m. and others are home office only. I like diverse work with a well-mixed combination of administrative, research and creative tasks!!

  • What makes you excited about your work?

Bringing new ideas to real life! Seeing that my/our designs and products are working and are useful for people (at least some of them ?).

To overcome barriers and obstacles in the design process and, one day, see the outcome!

  • And what is the biggest challenge at your work?

Surprisingly, it is not anything related to technology. I find working with people the most challenging task at my work. Sometimes, I feel more like a psychologist than a researcher.

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

I incline more to applied research than to basic research, so I do not have a name to say.

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

Unfortunately, almost none of those arts work for me. I used to read a lot of classical literature when I was younger; I still like to watch good movies, including the old black and white ones, but time is limited. I dedicated my life to sport activities. I started with ice hockey on a very famous team in Kladno, then volleyball, cycling, climbing, inline hockey, skiing, yachting, squash, etc.

Generally, I like to construct something, work in the mechanical workshop, or work with wood.

If somebody asked me what my real hobby is, I would say beekeeping or working with wood. These are really relaxing work for me and, now, also for my family (I hope).

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

Hard to remember what was exceptional – maybe the Chernobyl series.

  • Describe your very first impression of Slovenia.

Diverse country (still undiscovered for many Czech people), many foreigners, good hospitable people, good cycling infrastructure.

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

I really like the unique combination of mountains and sea, old small towns with narrow streets and the broad number of sport activities that can be done here.

I miss my family, dog and friends I have in Czech.

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

If I really have to stay on Slovenia’s coast, it would be Piran. But Croatian islands are not far away!!

  • What makes you enthusiastic?

I will not give the answer; it would sound like a cliché.

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

Live in a harmony with nature, behave in a sustainable way, don’t only speak about it – live it!!

Raise children in sustainable thinking – for them, it is much easier to get it when they are young than for us to change our consumable attitude to life in which we were raised. We are not going to save the world, but they still have a chance to do it.

Global sustainability starts in the mind of all of us and, especially, in the intellect of our children.

What does the charm of wood mean to you?

Nowadays, I live in the same place as my grandpa, keeping the same wood workshop and tools he has and getting in touch with wood from many other perspectives.

  • Research – Wood as a construction material and its protection
  • Business – Sensor systems for wood construction monitoring
  • Home – Sustainable living in real life – is it still utopia? I believe it is not! And I think it is worth it to try!

For me, it brings another dimension to “charm of wood”, which is  “charm of hard work”:

Harvesting wood from the forest, preparing wood for the fireplace and then using the fireplace to heat the house, DHW preparation and, most importantly, enjoying the sound and heat of burning wood in the living room in the evenings.

And lastly – hard work with wood makes your brain relaxed.

And those who never tried it – trust me, it is worth it!