Time flies – do you feel the same as I do? My name is Weronika, and 6 months ago I received a phone call that changed my life. Few hours later the employment contract was laying on my desk. Few days later I went to Kraków to meet people full of passion, excitement and interests in science. People, who now I call EJD-friends. Within a matter of a few beers I became Beeronika and I took the Early Stage Researcher #7 position at KU Leuven (Belgium) together with University of Nottingham (UK).
To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from going to Belgium and I didn’t know much about the place where I was going to spend the next 3 years. I was asking myself: is it a good decision to move out from Poland? But something was telling me that Belgium is a good choice. So passing through Europe I was crooning in excitement “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life…”.
When I reached my destination – Ghent– I saw a charming city, full of hidden corners, shops with tasty Belgian pralines, fragrant stands with Belgian fries and bars filled with thousands of Belgian beers. Everything was so different so… Belgian! I immediately felt in love with Ghent.
My first day at Technologiecampus of KU Leuven was even more impressive. When I opened the big door, the hot and humid air instantly hit my face. The smell was sweet and grainy. Water was splashing everywhere and the big machines were fully running. I was in the brewery – in the heart of the Department. What’s more, IT was beating so fast since I entered in the middle of the brewing process. I saw Gert – my Supervisor – with a very serious face, explaining the steps of the process to students. When we exchanged our looks, he waved friendly and encouraged me to join the group. Never before I have seen such an innovative brewery – thick mashing system, mash filter, energy recovery set up etc. But the best of all was the feeling that soon I will have the possibility to brew here – in this “brewery of the future”!
My next stop was a room full of cutting-edge equipment (GC-MS, HPLC, UPLC, SWIFT etc.). When I saw them for the first time, every machine was busy, working precisely on a complicated analytical method measuring various beer compound. It was an amazing feeling, knowing that in a couple of weeks I would be able to control some of these smart robots and I would measure aldehydes in beer and malt.
But first, I had to dive into the depths of beer flavour stability. When I was reading one article, two others were popping out. Then I could find another interesting reference… again and again. Soon my desk was flooding in books and scientific papers. At the beginning I felt totally lost while trying to understand the chemical issues: lipid A is attacked by oxygen companied by the enzyme A what causes formation of compound B that can be transformed to compound C, D or E whit the assumption that…. And the names of new for me chemical compounds – phenylacetaldehyde? 3-methylbutanal? 2-methlypropanal? Trans-2-what?! But after a while, you could give me a few Belgian beers and I was able to tell you all names of important aldehydes in beer and malt at once. Progress!
People say that PhD is as big rollercoaster – full of ups and downs. My trolley with the colourful logo ESR#7 has already started and soars up. You are always welcome to join me and go through my PhD journey with me. Let’s have fun together!