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I am trying to make concrete more sustainable

Jakub Hájek, visiting researcher at InnoRenew CoE

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

I spent my childhood in Hostivař on the edge of Prague in Czechia. It is a nice and quiet part of the city where you can find a forest with a dam. It was possible to ride a snow sledge or skate on the frozen dam, which was fun. Now I live on the other side of Prague next to the fields and highway, but I usually spend my time somewhere else, so it doesn’t bother me much.

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

I have studied civil engineering at the Czech Technical University of Prague. The first reason I chose this path was that I saw what my dad was doing, and I thought it was interesting. The other reason is that my teachers at grammar school were not really inspiring in other fields such as chemistry or biology, which are the fields that I like, so in the end I chose a field that I did not know much about.

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

I am trying to make concrete more environmental and sustainable through more effective use of materials. I combine special concrete with carbon or natural fibre reinforcement.

  • What does your typical working day look like?

I really do not have a typical working day. It depends on what is needed to be done. There are weeks when I have to be in a lab and prepare concrete samples or crush them during testing and then there are weeks when I am behind a computer desk and I analyse measured data and I am writing papers.

  • What makes you excited about your work?

That it is not boring. Every day is different, and I do not have to do the same thing over and over again.

  • And what is the biggest challenge at your work?

To keep our lab clean and organized. You just can’t say about everything that it might come handy in the future. It must go! But sometimes it is hard to let go… So, someone else has to throw it away.

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

I am fascinated by the greatest Czech of all time, Jára Cimrman. He discovered that blowing tobacco smoke into water does not create gold. Someone had to look at the dead end of human knowledge and announce to the world: Not this way, friends! Cimrman was a playwright, poet, musician, teacher, traveller, philosopher, inventor, criminal, and sportsman. Too bad he never lived. He is a character in famous theatre plays.

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

Since I was 16, I have been learning to play guitar by myself. What I love about it is that when I am home alone, I can just play for myself to cope with emotions, when I am happy, angry, sad, calm or just trying something new.

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

Now, I am reading An Introduction to Conservation Biology because I would like to study Conservation Nature at The Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague. This is something I realised last year, that maybe I would like to broaden my field of expertise and by our Czech law I can study more without any problems. So why not try it!

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

Probably the bay at Krajinski park Strunjan, as it is a nice example of how to take care of biodiversity and not to deplete natural sources.

  • What makes you enthusiastic?

Working with people who care about nature. I am an organiser in a Hnutí Brontosaurus. We do a lot of public volunteer events where we help nature in various ways. We mow the meadows, plant trees, hang birdhouses, and more… We are trying to educate about climate change and find solutions on how we can contribute to the solution of this complex issue. When we meet all the great people who are trying to reach the same goal as we, that is really energising!

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

When I was growing up in a touristic children’s group, I had to take care of chronicle. I was always asking if I can do this and that. After a while, one of the leaders told me: “Jakub, do what you think is the best. If you don’t do it, then no one will.” And with this guidance, I found that I can do a lot of interesting things. Sometimes even things that sound hard or impossible. I just have to try it and find the solution.

  • What does the charm of wood mean to you?

Wood gives me warmth. Both by fire in nature and at home as I look at the furniture.