Link between theory and practice
A few times a year, VITO launches a number of topics for doctoral studies within the organisation, topics that can support ongoing VITO research. PhD students can apply for this. More than seventy students from home and abroad are currently continuing their doctoral studies within the various VITO research groups.
Max König: “For me, VITO is the ideal link between theory and practice. It gives me the unique opportunity to continue my scientific research, but linked to current research projects. Our team within VITO investigates the electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide in products. In other words: we convert CO2 into chemicals and fuels via renewable electricity. That should allow us to move away from fossil fuels in the future.”
In the context of his doctoral study Max is a full member of a team of about 15 researchers. Late 2019 Max also became a member of the PhD Committee, an international group of PhD students that represents the PhD community.
Max: “This large network of international students has already made it easier for me to feel at home here. Everyone is in the same situation and experiences the same 'difficulties' in the beginning. You don't speak the language, you have to do your best to integrate, you miss your family. Sharing your experiences with like-minded people is really a plus, also within the projects in fact. You can really feel a European spirit here and that gives you wings.”
Max: “Within the PhD Committee we regularly talk about what the future holds for us. Some of us have been bitten by the research bug, others are eager to play a meaningful role in the real world. It all depends on your field of expertise, of course. For me it's still a bit blurry, I still have two years to go at VITO anyway. And I like that very much. VITO is the perfect match between research and industry. Besides, thanks to my broad international network I can regularly meet like-minded people here. We share the same challenges but also our knowledge, which is enormously enriching.”
The first year Max lived in an apartment provided by VITO. Now he is renting a room in the centre of Mol. Max: “I play basketball and volleyball at Nuclea, I don’t shut myself up but of course my study still takes up a lot of my time. In the weekends I usually go to Maastricht, where my girlfriend lives. Obviously, I sometimes think about what the future holds for me. A lot will depend on job opportunities. On the one hand of course I want to live closer to my family, on the other hand I can picture myself staying in Belgium. Who knows ... Ask me again in 2021. (laughs)