Republic of Poland

Professor Andrzej Białowiec has got a Fulbright Scholarship

March 14, 2018

Fulbright Senior Award is a programme of 3 to 9 month-long scholarships for Polish scientists enabling them to carry out their own research or teaching plus research projects in the USA. Our employee, Professor Andrzej Białowiec has become one of the awarded scholars.

- My project is about researching emissions of volatile organic compounds from biochar created from waste. In my work I have so far dealt with waste in different contexts: neutralizing landfill leachates, biodrying and biostabilization of waste or converting waste into solid and gas fuels. For several years I’ve been focusing on the process of torrefaction, i.e. pyrolysis of biomass and waste which leads to obtaining a material of the properties similar to coal. It’s a technology which enables us to obtain high-quality fuel – explains professor Białowiec who transferred to WUELS from the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn.

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fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

- In Poland the refuse-derived fuel, (RDF) is used in cement plants but it is usually of low quality – it contains a lot of water and its heating value is relatively small. I have proposed torrefaction as a method which significantly improves the fuel properties of waste. So far, the research have confirmed that it was a good idea, however I have observed another problem – biochar emits volatile organic substances and we have identified as many as 87 of them. In the US, I’m going to try to limit their emissions and, on the other hand, I would like to use the biochar, which possesses very good sorption capacity, to limit odour emissions from agricultural sources – says the scientist from the The Faculty of Life Sciences and Technology. From August Andrzej Białowiec will conduct research at Iowa State University which is one of the best life science universities in the world. Professor Białowiec will carry out his scientific work in the laboratory of Professor Jacek Koziel who was once a visiting professor at WUELS.

Professor Białowiec is going to the USA for 9 months which – as he himself admits – is not a long time for research. – I have never been afraid of such challenges. As a student I had an internship in Sweden and a course in Russia and as a doctoral student I also had several internships: in Portugal, Italy, China or at Stanford University (USA) within the TOP 500 Innovators programme. The longest time I spent at Cardiff University in Great Britain. Everywhere I was, I tried to gain knowledge and inspiration from the best. Thanks to people I met I began conducting research in different fields and my publication abilities improved a great deal – only my stay Cardiff resulted in 20 ranked publications thanks to which I quickly received my habilitation degree.

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fot. Pxhere

Despite his many previous trips, Professor admits that he was a little anxious when applying for the Fulbright scholarship: - I read about the Fulbright graduates and the list includes some of the top representatives of science, business, government, non-governmental organizations, the media or arts and culture. The thought – “what am I doing here with my litter?” – did come to my mind. However, I quickly chased those fears away as the subject of waste management in its broad sense is extremely important from the point of view of individuals and the environment, but also because it is a key element of state economies and the lifecycle of all products. I have looked through the subject literature and it turned out that the topic is absolutely relevant. There is still a lot to do and write.

The scientist admits that he prepared himself thoroughly for the application. Before applying, he read internet forums, the rules and the recommendations to the rules which provided him with tips for preparing the application based on clear and precise information without unnecessary digressions. He also obtained references from internationally recognized scientists and the invitation from his selected university which had already agreed to receive the guest and even arranged classes for him. One more important factor was his experience and potential which he had been building over the years.

- I believe that this is what scientific work is about. It’s important to travel, exchange ideas, do interdisciplinary research, implement one’s inventions. In a new environment one gains healthy distance to oneself and one’s work. The Chinese send their doctoral students to the US, Great Britain or France and after 4 years they come back with great language skills, a rich collection of their professors’ business cards and a lot of other contacts. This way the Chinese universities have quickly gone up in international rankings.

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fot. Tomasz Lewandowski

During the interview (to which Professor Białowiec took a sample of his biochar) a question was asked about his future after Fulbright. – I’m interested in the theory – practice relation. I have cooperated with entrepreneurs in carrying out R&D projects, implemented a few ideas. Solving real technical and technological problems has shaped my approach to research which is very much utilitarian. I want to implant in students the skill of combining theory and practice. Young people should look for companies in a given industry because they often have a lot to offer. As they already develop while studying, they can design and carry out research and experiments, create inventions and prototypes. Start-ups in the world are mainly set up by young people – you can hear so much about some outstanding initiatives of the young which contribute to the development in so many areas. I want to encourage them to study, travel, take up challenges and I want to help them as much as I can – he says and admits that for him Fulbright is a new opening. – Now the recruitment for the programme is open so there’s a chance for other people to get in – students, doctoral students and professors. The Fund’s website contains all the information and I will also be glad to help anyone who’s interested.

- I’d like to also point out that my trip is not only about carrying out my own research program. I hope to make new contacts which can result in interesting scientific initiatives and publications and I would like to share my newly-gained knowledge with my students. – finishes Professor Białowiec.