Although B4Plastics only started daily operations 3 years ago, we are very proud to announce that in February we welcomed our 10th employee, Christian van Slagmaat. As this is a great milestone, and an indication of our fast growth, we want to celebrate this by starting up a new series that you will be able to follow on our website: “A day in the life of a B4Plastics employee”. In this way, we will regularly leave the word to one of our teammates to take you on a tour through B4Plastics – and what better way to start than with Christian himself?
Christian (29, Dutch) studied chemistry at Utrecht University to specialize in organic chemistry and catalysis. He then performed his doctoral research at Maastricht University, in which he developed new ‘green’ methods and molecules that can be used for the production of bio-plastics. Recently, he joined our R&D team to transform knowledge into biomaterials on multi-kilogram scale, thereby contributing to a sustainable future.
Q. How did you get into a career as an R&D Scientist in the New Plastics Economy?
With my educational background in organic chemistry and the huge socio-political incentive to transition toward the New Plastics Economy, it is practically inevitable to enter a career involving R&D of sustainable plastics. Nevertheless, I consider this field as my true calling to contribute to the necessary ‘green’ changes in the world.
“The New Plastics Economy is a vision of a circular economy for plastic, where plastic never becomes waste. It offers a root cause solution to plastic pollution with profound economic, environmental, and societal benefits.”
Q. Describe your typical working day at B4Plastics.
Days can be very different, but they usually start with email-reading and a strong cup of coffee! After that, I always intend to spend most of my time at work in the lab to achieve as much experimental output as possible, whilst I conduct most of my administrative tasks during waiting time or in the evening.
Q. What are the skills you need to excel as a R&D Scientist developing bioplastics?
Chemistry and engineering are quite challenging professions, that require a combination of theoretical expertise and practical experience in order to be able to conduct just the research. Typically, to develop biomaterials – intended for commercial production and public use – an R&D Scientist should also be able to question the practical, economical, and ethical feasibility of the product development and production. Finally, I believe that any R&D Scientist needs unconditional motivation, creativity, and passion for the research topic and goals of the project, and then the necessary skills will grow fast and naturally.
Q. What challenges do you face in this role?
It is a well-known fact that conducting practical research is expensive and we simply cannot always use the optimal equipment or materials that we want for all the breakthrough innovations that we are handling daily. Nevertheless, with our optimistic and highly creative team, we have always found a way to find or build a successful solution.
Q. What keeps you motivated to go into work every day?
Chemistry is basically my hobby, so I greatly enjoy my time at work! My favourite business is performing experimentation in the lab, where my ideas and creativity can flow free leading to proven concepts and real materials. Every experimental success feels like a victory and it never becomes boring.
Q. What advice would you give someone considering a research career in the New Plastics Economy?
Someone who engages a career in the New Plastics Economy is very likely to first face many hardships and failures before the successes and the acknowledgement thereof are finally achieved. I think that someone who aspires to work in this field should definitely be self-confident and should not give up easily.