Uncategorized, World Chicago

Welcome to the Voyager

My first week of the World Chicago Professional Fellowship program in Prof. Omar Farha research group, I have spent with my kind host Dr. Timur Islamoglu and his other Farha research group members.

Timur is a research associate in the Farha group at Northwestern University where he was a post-doctoral researcher previously (2016–2017). He is a chemist that works on the design and synthesis of MOFs as heterogeneous catalysts. He also puts efforts toward understanding the underlying MOF growth process. He received his B.S. in Chemistry (2008) and Mathematics (2009, double major) from Dumlupinar University and his M.Sc. (2013) and Ph.D. (2016) in Chemistry from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

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Dr. Timur Islamoglu Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University

After the morning tea and short introduction on my agenda for the Professional Fellowship program, Timur showed me office we will share in next weeks and took me for a tour over the laboratories and buildings of Department of Chemistry at Northwestern University, Chicago.

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Dr. Ivana Carev and Dr. Timur Islamoglu, visiting the labs at the Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University, Farha research group.

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MOFia group – the name comes from metal – organic frameworks, special chemical compounds which are in the focus of this research group.

If you think this is the funny way to call your serious research group check this out:

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Level pro, ha? It was really inspiring for me to see how these smart and creative people are using their creativity to make more fun in their actually very serious job.

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To do a proper research in chemistry, or in any basic science, one of the most important things you need is a laboratory equipped with all needed infrastructure, equipment and people.

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Competitive laboratories have to be well equipped both with instruments and people to do a high level of research, as well as numerous of collaborations as the diversity in the approach to the problem solving in science is the only key for solving the complex problems.

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The amount of my excitement walking around with Timur, was immense! The numbers of laboratories, equipped with amazing instruments, high level of research, good atmosphere among his colleagues, kindness, the values they apply in their work, I was amazed.

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In the very first day I was convinced that Department of Chemistry does creative, innovative, collaborative and interdisciplinary research in all of their cores of department: biology, environment/energy, inorganic chemistry,  material/nanoscience, organic chemistry and physical/analytical chemistry.

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I was really impressed by everything I saw, the final touch down for me was seeing 7 NMR.s in one room!

Just to explain briefly, to those who are not so familiar with chemistry, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy is sophisticated and powerful analytical technology used in many disciplines of scientific research, medicine, and various industries. It is one of the two leading technologies for the structure determination of molecules at atomic resolution.

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For the laboratories who do not have access to such instruments in house facilities, it might take days to get the results on the structure of the molecule they are working on. It is either collaboration or paying for the user time on these instruments. More than the money, the main trouble can be the time you are loosing if you don’t have the well-equipped laboratories and information about your chemical compound you are working on, which is a crucial part in chemistry.

Timur explained me, after he puts the samples for analysis, typically in 10 minutes he has results on his e.mail! That’s how it should be and that’s how competitive laboratories work. I felt like I’ve stepped on a Voyager in my professional manner!

Beside the visit to laboratories and watching Timur in action during his scientific work, I have participated in the group meeting where students present the topic connected with their research. The meeting started with pizza, of course, these hard working people need to eat something, and we are in Chicago right? Of course it will be pizza! After the short safety precaution measures, introduced by one of the students, presentations started and were followed with the questions from audience. The discussion was focused on sharing the experience from the lab and fostering future research. As the research group is big, students need to present their work once in a couple of months. They got a feedback on their topic, share the knowledge with their colleagues and listen about new discoveries in their field of research.

Timur was more than happy to share with me the covers he and his colleagues made for the most prestigious journals in Chemistry they are publishing in, posted on the walls of the shared facility at Northwestern:

I’ve told him, he looks very happy here, and he replied: “I am very happy here!”

That’s the impression I’ve got in any deeper conversation here so far. Of course, any chemist, who likes his job and wants to do a good scientific research, working in such an amazing professional environment would be happy! I could understand him and his colleagues completely and felt very happy to see their happiness.

The working culture and level of the research they are doing here is so inspiring and motivating for me! It reminded me on one of my dear colleague in Split and his working group, Dr. Francois Xavier Pellay. I felt like I’m blooming from inside just being surrounded with these hard working, intelligent and kind people, watching their work and getting approval for my visions of how scientific work should look like and what can I do about that when I come back home at my University of  Split, Faculty of Chemistry and Technology in Croatia.

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Northwestern University, Department of Chemistry

By the first three days, I’ve visited amazingly equipped laboratories, where the high level of science research happens, I was introduced to majority of the Farha research group of more than 30 people, I had interesting and motivating talks with students and scientists working with the Farha research group, with two of the PhD students I had lunch and they assigned me for a meeting with the director of the Center for advanced learning and teaching, attended group meetings and listened talks and knowledge shared among students and professors working in the Department of Chemistry. I saw how working days of my colleagues are passing in intensive work, carried in a good atmosphere. I felt so deeply thankful to all these kind and open people, especially to Prof. Omar Farha who opened his lab to me and Timur, who took time for me to show me all this, despite all the obligations and responsibilities they had.

That all is what I call more than a warm welcome!

My passion for my work in chemistry have stirred up my personal creativity. Sometimes it is not easy to describe in the words how I feel, but it initiates my expression in colours and after a while I have painted something when I came home.

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I am so looking forward to the coming days and spending time in such an inspiring environment!

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