The REWATERGY experience (part 1)
Rubén Asiaín Mira
rowing up in Spain includes a life full of good food and great people. Besides that, I did my undergraduate in Chemical and Energy Engineering in Madrid. After I obtained my degree, I started working as an energy consultant, which gave me valuable experience in the industrial sector. After working for one year, I still wanted to stay in touch with the industrial world, but I was missing the “lab life” that research development had to offer. When I discovered REWATERGY, I realised that it was the project I was looking for! An industrial doctorate in the University of Cambridge with half of the project carried out in Aqualia, a Spanish water company. It would allow me to study abroad and then come back to Spain to continue with the development of my project in an industrial environment – what a perfect match! Now, fast-forward to the middle of the project, my period in the United Kingdom is about to end. When I look back on my time here, all I can recall are all these amazing new experiences I have been through. Everything happened in a flash: the beginning of the project, moving to a different country, finding accommodation and meeting a lot of new people. There are moments that will always be highlighted in my mind: the first project meeting in Cambridge, when we met the other ESRs and the rest of the beneficiaries; the first time in the lab, so excited about all the “toys” available to play with; the first training course of the project when we all went to Belfast for three days and get to know each other much better. And of course, every journey has a downside: the lockdown caused by COVID-19, when we had to stop our activity in the lab, and which was probably the part of all this adventure. Fortunately, after 4 months we were able to resume our activities in the “new normal” situation and zoom became our best ally for social interactions. It has been a beautiful ride to this point, with its ups and downs. Now it is the moment to pack up things again and get ready to move to a new destination. I’m looking forward to this new part of the project in Aqualia, knowing that it will be full of new incredible moments.
oining the REWATERGY programme offered something old and something new to me- I have lived in Cork before, the location of my first secondment at Prophotonix and I have also lived in Spain before, albeit in Malaga and not Madrid. This is also my second stab at a PhD. It’s not often you get second chances, especially in programmes as competitive as MSCA. For me, it took the perspective of time away from scientific research to realise it was right for me. between my first attempt at a PhD and joining the REWATERGY programme, I spent time working for a spin-out company in Belfast which was perhaps the most exciting and valuable job I have had to date and also worked with a government innovation lab. In both cases, after the initial honeymoon period subsided, it was obvious that I wouldn’t be involved in the type of work that excites me without returning to complete a PhD. Whilst remaining on the island of Ireland, Cork and Belfast (my home city) are culturally very different places. Both cities have long strived to step out of the shadow of Dublin and fight for unique identities. This is my second time living in Cork, having spent a year in the seaside town of Kinsale during placement in University. It has been a very different experience second time round, with the pandemic making it difficult to set roots and make connections in the city. Unfortunately, my initial ambitions to get involved in drama groups and sports clubs in Cork gradually dwindled to just coping with the pandemic and progressing with the PhD. Nonetheless, I have been fortunate enough to have a small group of friends to share some experiences with in Cork, as well as supportive colleagues in Prophotonix to help me progress with PhD work.