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To me, wood represents warmth and life

Albert Kravos, assistant researcher at InnoRenew CoE; main areas of research: sustainability, chemistry, recycling, chemical analysis, modeling, circular economy

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

I spent my childhood in Bertoki, and my studies brought me from Koper to Ljubljana, Trieste, Copenhagen and Firenze. Now I go back to my origins as I am currently living again in Bertoki and working on my PhD in Koper and Izola.

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

My drive for understanding the fundamental principles governing our reality led me to start my studies in chemical engineering, which continued with pure chemistry. After acquiring a grasp of how subatomic particles’ interactions make up everything, I was drawn to the idea of putting my knowledge to good use for the benefit of both nature and humankind, which led me to a multidisciplinary study focused on sustainable energies. These accumulated experiences made me seek a solution for the ever-rising problem of plastic pollution. Thus, a few friends and I founded BlueBenu, a start-up researching supercritical water liquefaction methods for plastic recycling. Founding a start-up taught me the basics of running a company and fueled a few years of personal growth mediated by start-up incubation and acceleration programs and an Erasmus Young Entrepreneurs exchange. Now I have the opportunity to continue researching in the field of sustainable development at InnoRenew CoE, and I am currently also doing a PhD on olive leaf waste streams and their valorization through smart biorefining processes.

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

My work is dynamic, and I can participate in various activities from numerous different fields, many of which focus on sustainable development. Currently, my main task revolves around spectrometry for chemical analysis, which, bluntly, can be described as a method where investigating the pictures of different materials can give you the concentration of several components in that material. However, I am not limited to this area of research, and whenever needed, I can hone different expertise.

  • What does your typical working day look like?

My working day starts at 7:37 a.m. when I wake up, eat something healthy, check email, take a shower and get ready for work. For my commute, whenever possible, I take my bike for a ride to work. Around 9:00 a.m., I am in the laboratories in Izola where, after greeting my colleagues, I evaluate if there are any new urgent tasks to be done. Afterward, it depends from day to day — mostly, I will seek to achieve some progress in my main project (Olive4Value). Otherwise, I will work on other tasks or conduct research to deepen my knowledge. Often some of the workload from the PhD classes overlaps consistently with the work I am supposed to do, which makes the completion of these tasks even more rewarding. If time is not a constraint, at lunch, I try spending it with my work colleagues. Most often, my workday ends around 5:30 p.m., except when I do chemical analysis, which can delay my leave. At home, I like to get up to date with the latest science news (almost any field is of my interest), and then I either relax, finish some homework or meet a friend if possible.

  • What makes you excited about your work?

I am curious, and I like to be creative and active. At work, I have plenty of possibilities to quench my thirst for novelty, discovery and innovation. Moreover, my co-workers are all kind, friendly and highly skilled professionals, which allows me to learn a lot from them while having a pleasant conversation. Another key factor is that my work revolves around sustainable development research and implementation, and this brings me pleasure and pride. Everything I’ve mentioned so far and the fact that I feel appreciated makes me motivated and excited at work.

  • And what is the biggest challenge at your work?

Often, time represents the limiting factor, and there are many reasons for which tasks can take longer to be finished, which also bothers me as I see myself being less productive than what I intended to be. I should also mention bureaucracy and communication. As I have less experience in certain areas, I tend to either overestimate or underestimate the importance of certain procedures, which contributes to my uncertainty and wondering if I spent that time correctly.

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

It has been since I was a kid when I learned that our bodies are made of tiny cellular organisms that work in such a perfect symbiotic synergy that I have been amazed. It is still mind-blowing whenever I think about what kind of deep connection there is between mind and body. There is also the little thing about my name that most likely made me more curious as Einstein was someone I looked up to.

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

I started playing the guitar when I was seven, but it took me another seven years before I bought my third guitar, which was different from the others as it was an electric guitar. The thin neck of the guitar made it easier to play, and the thin strings were easier to bend; moreover, I suddenly had a whole new set of sound manipulation possibilities. I still remember the noise that was supposed to be music from the rehearsals and jams we had with the band we assembled. It was probably quite clear that we were playing because we liked it and not because we were good at it.

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

I had the habit of watching Anime, but lately, there is literally nothing worth watching, so I stick with mostly science and technology and, to a lesser extent, geopolitics and economics news and videos. I am currently searching for an interesting book as I feel I could improve my Slovene as well.

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

I have fond memories as a kid during the summer days spent mostly diving and exploring the seabed in Strunjan; however, the best experience was whenever there was Burja, and I had time to go to Žusterna where my windsurf was impatiently waiting for me.

  • What makes you enthusiastic?

I am always up for a challenge or discovering something new (but I never bet, I always lose).

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

Once, I needed to find the meaning of life, but I couldn’t, and the only half answer I could give is that we must give it meaning. I am still open to better alternatives.

  • What does the charm of wood mean to you?

To me, wood represents warmth and life. It comes from the forests I like to hike and discover. It has a pleasant feeling to the touch.