Uncategorized, World Chicago

Think like a proton – always positive!

Think like a proton – always positive!

My professional host in World Chicago Professional Fellowship Program is Prof Omar Farha at Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University, Chicago. The communication and first contact was set up by World Chicago and here is what I have got as an introduction:

Prof Omar Farha is a professor of Chemistry and professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University president of NuMat Technologies and Associate Editor of ASC Applied Materials & Interfaces. His research accomplishments have been recognised by several awards and honours including the Royal Society of Chemistry “Environment, Sustainability and Energy Division Early Career” Award; the American Chemical Society “The Satinder Ahuya Award for Young Investigators in Separation Science”; and an award established by the Department of Chemistry at Northwestern University in his honour: “The Omar Farha Award for Research Leadership”, awarded for stewardship, cooperation and leadership in the finest pursuit of research in chemistry and given annually to an outstanding research scientist working in the department. His current research spans diverse areas of chemistry and materials science ranging from energy to defence related challenges. Specifically, his research focuses on the rational design of metal – organic frameworks (MOFs) and porous – organic polymers for sensing, catalysis, storage separations and light harvesting. He has published more than 300 peer-reviewed publications, holds 13 patents and have been named a Highly Cited Research by Thomson and Reuters in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.        

I don’t know how do you feel reading this, but I was thrilled! I’m going to the right place for my professional development!

When you wish to improve yourself in any aspects, one of the strategies I use is surrounding myself with those who are much better than I am in the aspect I wish to improve. This way I have opportunity to learn and improve myself on a good, as I am learning from the best. In my personal and professional context, I have already done some really good things, but there is so much more to do and grow as professional and as a person. The time I have in Prof Omar Farha’s Research group gives me this opportunity and I am enjoying every single second of it.


During the first week of my visit over World Chicago professional Fellowship Dr. Timur Islamoglu welcomed me and introduced with a group. I felt like the group members are really happy and appreciate of their principal investigator. With whomever I talked, they all seemed very excited about their work and had only compliments for Prof Omar Farha, so I felt like I’m meeting some superstar on Monday when we’ve met. Of course, he is a superstar in chemistry and in reality, very impressive person. He took me, Timur and one of his PhD students for an enjoyable talk with coffee/tea. To briefly summarize our talks about the size of the Department of Chemistry and scientific research, I’ve took some information from the web page:

The Department of Chemistry was rated as one of the top five in the nation by the latest National Research Council survey in 2010. NU Chemistry has almost doubled in size over the last ten years and now, in addition to our faculty, has approximately 250 graduate students and 175 postdoctoral fellows, 5 lecturers, 14 research professors, and 40 staff members.

The measure of a department is the success of its students. Over 90% of our undergraduate chemistry majors go on to medical school or graduate school for further study. The outstanding accomplishments of our doctoral students and alumni reflect the department’s highly selective admission standards. All Ph.D. students receive broad training that prepares them equally well for careers in academia or industry. Approximately 60 percent of our current alumni hold industrial positions, 30 percent have academic positions and 10 percent are employed by government or independent research institutions. Northwestern Chemistry enjoys strong ties to the chemical industry and works with companies on research projects and career opportunities for our students.

The Integrated Molecular Structure Education and Research Center, IMSERC, a world-class analytical facility was completed in 2013. IMSERC was established to educate Northwestern students to be scientific leaders of 21stcentury, and support world-class research. The synthesis of small molecules fuels research of numerous core disciplines and interdisciplinary activities, including chemistry, molecular/cellular biology, drug discovery, chemical biology, translational medical research, materials, catalysis, nanotechnology and energy storage/conversion. All research at Northwestern utilizing novel compounds relies on IMSERC to characterize these molecules before application testing can begin. As a “one stop shop” for molecular structure characterization, all instrumentation and staff scientist offices are located in a single location.

We spoke about the projects in his group, collaborations, on the importance of good work culture, how important are recommendations and collaborations, importance of interdisciplinary culture and span areas of research in chemistry, biology, nanotechnology, biotechnology for sparking new ideas, criteria for promotion in American science, the diversity of the group and other interesting topics.

What I was really impressed by were the values he applies in the work with his team and working culture that is promoted in a group. Prof Farha was very happy with the diversity in his group. He talked about the importance of diversity for his scientific research.He expects from the group members to be highly motivated, welling to cooperate and be a team player who will always help to others in the team.

Kindness, openness, dedication, support and wide-open doors for anything I asked for is what impressed me the most during my stay in Farha’s research group at Northwestern University. Observing the interaction of the whole group, as well as Prof. Farha’s with his colleagues, I have witnessed the rationale behind the award established by the Department of Chemistry at Northwestern University in his honour: “The Omar Farha Award for Research Leadership”, for stewardship, cooperation and leadership in the finest pursuit of research in chemistry, given annually to an outstanding research scientist working in the department.

My visit to Prof Omar Farha lab and research group full-filed all I have expected, from meetings with a group members, shadowing/observing group members in lab and research activities, attending group and subgroup meetings, meeting with other scholars in the Department of Chemistry and associates at NuMat Technologies, we have achieved all of our goals in less than two weeks of my visit and there is more jet to come.

Additionally, to our first plan, Prof Omar Farha helped with an introduction to the chair of the Department of Chemistry, Northwester University, Prof Teri Odom, few companies and their founders which I met, Dr. Andrey Ivankin, founder of Terra Print, Katie Kallholf Co-Founder + CEO, NUMiX Materials; Invention Managerin Innovation and New Ventures Office – Sarah Kemper, one of the previous hosts in World Chicago Professional Fellowship program, as well as three outstanding researchers, he has set me up the meetings and I will have opportunity to talk with, such as: Prof Chad Mirkin, Prof Richard B. Silverman, Prof William Dichtel, on which I will write more in coming blogs.

Since I have started my Professional Fellowship Program in Prof Farha’s Research Group, I feel like I am in the “right place”. By that I mean I am in a place where I can receive the knowledge about many aspects of my work as a scientist and the university member. The knowledge receiving here is not just about scientific research and education, but also other aspects of leadership, mentoring, teaching, entrepreneurship, technology transfer, and many other aspects. Learning and observing these highly skilled professionals I am growing as professional myself. More of it, I feel like I am in the environment which gives me an opportunity to grow as a person. hen you are surrounded with people who have good intentions and share the same values and mind-set like you do, you can easily express your ambitions, ideas, goals and be better version of yourself, learning from them, enriching yourself with their different experiences, expertise and knowledge.

Now I wish to share a small personal story that made me feel even more I am in a right place. I like people who have ability to create a good energy and I am by myself a person who always shares good energy and try to create a positive atmosphere. One of my favourite life moto’s I have that connects my personal and professional aspect is: “Think like a proton – always positive!”. I saw this moto and accepted it as my personal story already for years. Some of my friends call me “Protončica” which would be in a free translation from Croatian – little proton, referring to my positive attitude towards the life.

In Prof Farha and mine meeting with Angela Munghal, from World Chicago, we were talking, making plans for the future, and as I have shared with Angela my positive impressions and how good I feel being here, like I am in a right place for my professional and personal growth, I have notices a board with this quote:

“Think like a proton – always positive”

I was thrilled! You see, I AM in a right place, surrounded with these good positive highly skilled professionals, chemists, “Protons”, who are more than eager to share their knowledge and experiences, sparking and enlightening my inner motivation and passion for my work, helping me to grow.


Of course, we took a photo and Prof Farha explained it was a present from his wife, whom I had opportunity to meet in coming days. It was very empowering to see that we have common things in private life as well having families and same challenges to deal with. Support from partner is important for career development and when you have family it is even more important to organise all the aspects of your life to achieve success you wish for. It was supportive for me to see one more good example of work – life balance where both partners are happy for the lifestyle they choose to live.

I’ve painted a flowers as a result of my inspiration I’ve got in these meetings.


I am already so looking forward to all that is assigned for next two more weeks!

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