The European Commission has declared 2023 as the European Year of Skills. The EU economy is shifting towards the green and digital transition, which is opening new opportunities for the people. The EU workforce must obtain the relevant skills not only to feel empowered and follows the market changes but also to contribute to the sustainable growth of the EU economy, increasing competitiveness and innovation. Lifelong learning is highly encouraged by the European Union to support the upskilling of the workforce.
The European Year of Skills aims to promote lifelong learning by:
A young female researcher, working on the plating on plastics process in Creative Nano, kindly agreed on providing the following short interview. The following profile of Ms Eleni Poupaki aims to inspire and motivate young people that wish to pursue a career in the plating industry.
Can you briefly describe your background?
Before being part of Creative Nano’s team, I attended the School of Chemical Engineering (Meng) at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA). During the final semester of my studies, I conducted an internship at the Laboratoire de Génie Chimique (LGC) in Toulouse, France, in the context of which I did my Diploma Thesis.
The objective concerned the synthesis of conductive thin films of the polymer PEDOT, through an oxidative Chemical Vapor Deposition (oCVD) method. As part of my internship, I was responsible for the handling of the oCVD reactor, the characterization of the produced films and the analysis of the experimental data. It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed every minute of it, as it was an amazing opportunity to apply everything I’d learned and get hands-on experience in my field!
What motivated you to pursue a career in this field?
Throughout my academic years at NTUA, I have always had a profound passion for my chosen field of study and therefore I wanted to follow a career close to my original studies. A crucial factor that defined my current career orientation, would clearly be my internship in LGC since I got completely immersed into the world of research on nanotechnology and chemical engineering. Being a researcher enables you to unleash your creativity and develop a wide range of skills, from analytical thinking to effective communication and teamwork. I’m so grateful for this experience and I’m eager to see what my future work on FreeMe Project will offer me!
Could you identify some challenges or difficulties you have faced in your career so far?
As a junior researcher in the field of nanotechnology, I have encountered various challenges in my career so far. Perhaps the most significant one was the need for extreme attention to detail. In nanotechnology research, even the slightest mistake in handling equipment or measurement can have a significant impact on the results, so it’s essential to be precise and focused at all times. Another challenge I have faced is the depth of specialization required in this field. To conduct research in an area like plating on plastics, for example, a deep understanding of the existing literature and a keen sense of what the next level of research should be are required. This involves the studying of countless papers and immersing oneself in a complex and rapidly evolving field of study.
How did you cope with those challenges?
Every breakthrough or discovery is the result of countless hours of struggle, effort, and time, and the satisfaction of contributing to the wider scientific community makes it in the end all worthwhile. Therefore, despite all the above difficulties I have faced throughout my up-to-now experience, I find the process of researching to be incredibly rewarding. As a junior researcher, I’m excited to continue facing these challenges head-on and to see where my research can take me in the future!
What do you enjoy the most in your current role?
As a member of the R&D Stuff of Creative Nano, I am currently working on two exciting projects involving plating on plastics. What makes my work particularly fulfilling is the opportunity to collaborate with professionals and researchers across Europe, each bringing their unique perspective to the table. Together, we attempt to revolutionize the field of plating on plastics and to make industrial processes more eco-friendly and less toxic. This role offers me the chance to not only contribute to a noble cause but also explore new cultures and cities across the world. Working in a field where every day presents new challenges and opportunities for growth is truly a privilege, and I am grateful to be a part of this dynamic team.
Could you give any advice to young people that wish to pursue a career in the plating industry?
As I belong to this age group, I believe I can relate to individuals who wish to follow a career path in the plating industry. Firstly, one should know that the plating industry is a field with enormous potential for further research and development. Plating plays an essential role in our daily lives, from technology to the common products we use. As a Chemical Engineer, I see tremendous potential in combining our skills with the plating industry, as we are trained to integrate multiple skill sets into one profession. It is crucial to study electrochemistry thoroughly, as it is the foundation of plating! Also, it is important to keep up with the current technologies and trends in the electroplating field, which is continuously growing! Last but not least, in every role it’s beneficial to build your soft and hard skills, to be ready to be immersed into the professional world!