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Introduction

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Welcome to my site!

My name is Ivana and you will be following my personal experience in the World Chicago Tech Innovation, Education, and Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. I am now a visiting postdoc at Prof. Omar Farha’s MOFia Research Group at the Department of Chemistry, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.

I have earned my PhD in Chemistry at the University of Zagreb, while doing my scientific research at the University Paris Sud, CNRS France and University of Split, Croatia, where I currently work as a postdoc/senior assistant in the Faculty of Chemistry and Technology, Department of Biochemistry. I work in the field of natural product compounds research and their biological activity in the project of Prof. Mladen Miloš  BioActCom, funded by the Croatian Science Foundation (IP-2014-09-6897). We are working on volatile and non-volatile plant extracts made from Mediterranean plants and their antioxidant, antimicrobial, cytotoxic activity and acetylcholinesterase inhibition.

Besides chemistry, I am very interested in education and projects connected with different forms of learning, service learning, development of students’ soft skills and entrepreneurship, and quality assurance of higher education. I am involved as well in teaching activities at the undergraduate and graduate studies of chemistry, chemical technology, environmental sciences, food production and pharmacy.

In my free time, I like to be active, so I hike and cycle with my family and my hiking club. I like cooking a lot and photography, and I started painting last year and discovered a new talent I was not aware that I have. I volunteer in few NGOs and have been a breastfeeding advisor in local NGO for couple of years.

I have two children, 8 and 11 years old, girl and boy, going to the primary school. My husband is a doctor and works in a Split hospital as a specialist in infectious diseases. He also has PhD in medicine and teaches infectious diseases at the University of Split School of Medicine. My mum and my parents-in-law will be support for my kids and my husband while I am in Chicago. Thank you all for doing that for me, I’ll take the best from this experience, I promise!

The idea for a blog title comes from the time I will spend in Chicago and my very old-fashioned way of sending postcards to my friends while I am traveling. To more quickly share my experience on this amazing opportunity I’ll write a blog and give my very personal perspective on the things I have seen and learned.

I hope you will all enjoy reading and following!

Ivana

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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!

Uncategorized, World Chicago

Northwestern – celebration of science and education

Ok guys, I’m done with my slow introduction, it’s been two weeks since I’m here and there is so many exciting things happening in both professional and personal context I wish to share with you.

The Northwestern campus is just amazing place! My host Marc gave me a tour before I’ve started with my work there, so I got familiar with streets and buildings I needed to be on Monday, 15th October, 2018: Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Hall Center for Nanofabrication and Molecular Self-Assembly, which is part of International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN).

My professional host in World Chicago Professional Fellowship Program will be Prof. Omar Farha PI of MOFia group and his science associate Dr. Timur Islamoglu.

Some brief facts about Northwestern University. It is home to a 12 schools and colleges and was founded in 1851.  The Northwester University is settled at three campuses: a 240-acre campus in Evanston, a 25-acre campus in Chicago and a third campus in Doha, Qatar. The one I will be hosted over World Chicago Professional Fellowship Program is in Evanston, on the shore of Lake Michigan, 12 miles (19,3 km for my Europeans) north of Chicago.

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I was thrilled walking over campus for the first time and the excitement haven’t faded over these two weeks, trust me.

The wide green areas, beautiful parks, wide roads, cycling paths, gym, sandy beaches, enormous lake Michigan, amazing skyline of Chicago, lighthouses, churches, very old Deering library, Deaborn Observatory, Sheridan Building, Ryan Hall Center, Ford’s motor company design center, Kellogg school, Searle Center for advancing learning and teaching, Shakespeare’s garden, pictures says more than words, they say, so here it is:

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Lake Michigan and Chicago contours

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Northwestern campus area

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Kellogg business school 

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Wide roads and cycling paths

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Northwestern University 

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Dearborn Observatory

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Deering library 

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Searle center for advancing learning and teaching 

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Yes, my outfit is a work of my dear Karaka design friends.

I was thrilled by everything I saw, just seeing the entrance in the Ryan Hall building, where I will spend my fellowship, fostered my internal motivation and curiosity!

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Two Nobel prize winners in Chemistry! Sir John Pople (1998) and Sir Fraser Stoddart (2016) – this is dream place to be, to learn, to grow as professional, for every chemist!

Uncategorized, World Chicago

Kick-off meeting

First thing in the morning – grab a coffee at the train station. For us, settled in Evanston, it takes Metra train to the OTC, and a short walk, to World Chicago office.

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Friday morning, we’ve started with kick off meeting in World Chicago, receiving all the details about program, instructions, advices on what we should and shouldn’t do, getting to know with other fellows.

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There are 15 of us from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia, academics, entrepreneurs, free-lancers, consultants, CEOs, all of us having different professional backgrounds and goals for our visit, being placed in different homestay and professional hosts.

The first impressions I had, reading fellows’ short bibliographies, were strongly positive. I was thrilled to meet all these smart, talented people who have the same vision as I do, to work on ourselves, grow as professionals, so we can make our societies better places for living, while doing our jobs. I’ll introduce them personally in more details in future posts, as they all deserve to be shown more to the world.

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As in every group, after a very short period of time, there comes the one person who spontaneously sets up itself as a group leader. Of course, we have our star as well: Maja Jovičić. I would recommend you to follow her blog as well. While I am writing my personal diary, to leave the trace on this experience, she is actually blogging, in a very dynamic and precise way, I am sure you will enjoy.

What’s the first thing we did as a team? We went to the mobile operator to buy new SIM cards for our phones! The staff was so thrilled seeing all of us, that we earned presents and happy smiles leaving them. Now that we have set up the most important way of connection to the world – internet, we could start our adventure.

First things first – food and getting familiar with the Chicago’s dizzy, busy views.

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Not even rain stopped us!

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What a biochemist, like me, sees in this photo?

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DNA helix, of course!

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You haven’t been in Chicago, if you don’t have a photo with the “Cloud” or so called – bean.

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There is more jet to come …

Uncategorized, World Chicago

Chicago arrival

After 9 hours flight from Brussels to Chicago, Angela welcomed us at the airport. Thank you for that, it is really nice to have someone you know to welcome you when you are arriving in a new country. While waiting for other fellows to arrive, we’ve got our health insurance cards, transportation cards, short plan for our arrival and kick-off meeting.

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Meeting with other fellows from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia and Macedonia at O’Hara airport was warm and emotional as we had opportunity to meet and get to know each other at “Doing business in data driven society” conference, organised as well by World Chicago, in Skopje, Macedonia, in September 2018, a month before our arrival. It was also opportunity to meet other Alumni fellows from previous generation of Professional Fellows in both business and social events organised there.  I really like meeting new people and networking with fellows, who are part of this program, are for sure one of my favourite aspects of this program.

Finally gathering together, we headed to the World Chicago office where our homestay hosts were waiting for us. My hosts, will be Susan and Marc. Marc arrived to pick me, Anja and Samira, fellows from Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and drove us to the   Evanston, out hometown for the coming month.

Before I have started my trip to Chicago, some of my friends, who already had experience in US, warned me I will be surprised how everything is big comparing to my home. It is even funny to compare the size of a continent to a size of a 56,594 km(21,851 sq mi) small Croatia, but still in the manner of many everyday things, even I was warned, it shocked me!

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The buildings, the roads, streets, cars, houses, it is all bigger than at my home.

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It caused me some dizzy feelings of just watching my new surroundings.

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After a week here, I can assure you it wasn’t just my jet lag, causing me dizzy feeling, it was more mixture of feelings of accepting so many new things in a short period of time watching new contours of this beautiful town and its surroundings.