Alumnus des Monats

Was machen unsere Alumni heute beruflich? Dieser Frage gehen wir nach und stellen monatlich unterschiedliche Alumni und ihre Berufe vor.

Dr. Jan Kopyscinski
Verfahrenstechnik, Diplom, 1998 - 2005

Dr. Jan Kopyscinski is an Assistant Professor in Montreal Canada at the MCGill Univeristy in the Department of Chemical Engineering and leading the laboratory of Catalytic Process Engineering (CPE). He is looking for a PhD student, so get in touch with him!

Dear Dr. Kopyscinski, how would you have reacted as a student if someone had told you that you become an assistant professor in Canada someday?
If you would have told me in my first two years, I would have probably said “No way? I do not speak English or French. I see myself working somewhere in Germany or even in Poland. Moreover, my family and all my friends are here.” If you would have asked me in my last two years; I would have responded “No way! But, bring it on. I am open for everything and I can do everything.” After my pre-diploma, I took a year off from university in order to work and to travel the world. I wanted to get some industrial but more importantly life experience. In retrospect, this was a very good decision, because it opened my horizon. I love to travel, to meet and work with new peoples, and to take on new challenges.

How would you describe your way from Cottbus to the university chair in Canada?
“Bad luck followed by good luck and even greater luck.” In 2005, I started my doctoral study in Cottbus at the Chair for Power Plant Technology with Prof. Krautz, but after half a year our industrial project partner stopped the funding and collaboration. Even though Prof. Krautz told me to stay, I was looking for new opportunities. From here on my luck changed, because I got the offer to conduct my doctoral work at the famous ETH Zurich. I knew that is a big step; thus, I decided to go for three months to Toronto in Canada to improve my English as it is needed in the academic world. In Toronto I was even more lucky: I meet my future wife. Together we moved to Switzerland, where we spent 4 wonderful years. After graduating with a degree Doctor of Sciences, my wife and I asked, “Where to next?” By the way, my wife is from Mexico; thus, we could go to Mexico, to Germany, stay in Switzerland or any other place in the world. But, we liked our short time in Canada where your origin, your last name, your color of your skin and your religion do not matter. Thus, we went back to Canada, where I worked for 3.5 years as a postdoc at the University of Calgary and at University of Toronto. Exposed to so many different research institutes increased my appetite for the academic world. My goal was to become a Professor, and to work and conduct research in the area of catalytic process engineering for sustainable energy systems. Finally, in summer of 2013, I received the job offer from McGill University to start my own research group and follow the tenure-track path from Assistant to Associate and Full Professor. Since January 2014, I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and leading the laboratory of Catalytic Process Engineering (CPE). Currently, I have 5 PhD and 2 Master’s students working in my group who are developing novel catalysts and reactor concepts for sustainable energy conversion processes.

What would you recommend to students pursuing a career in science?
Your CV will be one of your most important documents. A very good CV will open the doors for your, but your character and interpersonal skills will be deciding factor in getting an academic position. Besides working and improving your CV, do not forget to live, to enjoy life, to travel and to learn new cultures. But when you work: focus, go the extra mile, develop communication and critical thinking skills, be curios, try new things, document everything, be productive, publish peer-reviewed journals and go to international conference. Moreover, I highly suggest that you work at different universities and research institutes around the world. Do not just focus on one place. If you do your BSc and MSc in Germany, then do your PhD and/or postdoc in North America or Asia. Do not give up. By the way I am looking for a PhD student!

What do you remember from your time in Cottbus?  
I remember my flatmates Stefan und Matthias, my fellow students and friends Lydia, Babsi, Bettina, Christian, Viviane, Meike, Jutta and Thomas and our great time we had. BTU was the perfect place for me to start my career and to learn and to find friends. Academically, I really like the small class sizes and the very good laboratories.