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Variety is the spice of life

Matthew Schwarzkopf, researcher at InnoRenew CoE and assistant professor at the University of Primorska; main areas of research: composite materials and agricultural biomass utilization


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

I grew up in Jefferson, Iowa, USA, a small farming town, and now I live in Koper, Slovenia.

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

My studies started with forestry at Iowa State University. I knew I wanted to do something dealing with the natural world but did not want to be a farmer, so I thought forestry could be a good choice. Through my BS, I became more interested in technical wood science topics, which led me to pursue an MS and PhD in wood and material science at Oregon State University.

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

I work with wood products and try to improve their strength, durability, longevity, etc.

  • What does your typical working day look like?

I start my day with coffee and a review of emails and messages from co-workers. Then I usually have some morning meetings regarding ongoing proposal preparation. In the afternoon, I try to get into the laboratory to do some experiments for any projects we currently have.

  • What makes you excited about your work?

Variety is the spice of life. I never do the same thing twice.

  • And what is the biggest challenge at your work?

I never do the same thing twice.

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

My grandfather was an agronomist at Iowa State University and helped farmers with land management practices for soil conservation. Seeing how his research directly benefitted industry and the environment simultaneously was inspiring for me.

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

Most everything by Ansel Adams. His focus on the natural world, the American West and, more specifically, Yosemite Valley are special to me as I have had many special experiences there.

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

Brooklyn 99 and Star Trek episodes on Netflix are on repeat for me at any given time.

  • Describe your very first impression of Slovenia.

It’s hard to remember my first impression, but I’ve always loved that there is something unique every place you go.

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

I love the coffee culture here in Slovenia, but I really miss a good greasy spoon and Mexican food.

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

There is a small, quiet marina between Koper and Izola that is great for lounging and swimming away from the crowded beaches.

  • What makes you enthusiastic?


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

Spend time every day taking care of yourself and everything else will come easier.

  • What does the charm of wood mean to you?

Wood and the forests from which it comes have intangible qualities that humans can make personal connections with. For me, this is the charm of wood.