An Interview with Two CORE Early Career Researchers

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We asked two Early Stage Researchers – Ghufran ur Rehman and Francesca Cascella – from the CORE Innovative Training Network about their background, their research and their experience over the last three years.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what your research is about?

Ghufran: Hi, my name is Ghufran ur Rehman. I am from Pakistan and currently working as an Early Stage Researcher in the University of Manchester, UK. I did my Master’s degree in Advanced Materials and Processes from Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen, Germany. My PhD fellowship is part of the CORE Innovative Training Network and looks at Continuous Resolution and Deracemization of Chiral Compounds by Crystallization. A part of my project is focused on Chirally discriminant in-situ process analytical technologies.

Francesca: Hi, my name is Francesca Cascella and I am from Italy. I am based in Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg in Germany, studying the Separation of the Enantiomers by Crystallization process. I graduated at the University of Bari (Aldo Moro) in Italy, in chemistry with a Bachelors thesis in organic chemistry and a Master’s thesis in physical chemistry.

Q: What do you feel are the benefits of working in a Marie-Curie ITN?

Ghufran: A Marie Curie ITN is a perfect example of combining academia and research institutes with multinational companies. What I feel the benefit it provides is they’re there to give an opportunity to interact directly with industries and to tackle current challenges being faced. I strongly believe that the ITN has given me the ability to work effectively with others as well as as an independent researcher. It has bestowed me a chance to work in prestigious organisations and research institutes to further enhance my knowledge and expertise.

Francesca: One of the benefits of a Marie Curie ITN is the support, and the key concepts of our project. I experienced many research struggles, which turned into opportunities of learning thanks to the active discussions established with PIs and colleagues in the project. In this context, the meeting events (workshops, summer schools and secondments) were crucial. Our meetings were a chance to not only share findings and ideas but also to start collaborations, which sometimes led us to rewarding scientific results. Moreover, the support from the industrial partners made me aware of how important research programmes are to our society.

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Ghufran and Francesca (on the left) with some of the other CORE ESRs in Manchester

Q: Do you think this ITN project has been useful to you in terms of your personal growth?

Ghufran: I think so. I feel that it has improved and developed my interpersonal skills, like my communication skills, and my project management skills.

Francesca: By looking back at the great time I had within the ITN, I see a beautiful journey where I’ve got to know people, cultures, and languages and, said with joy, I’ve got to know myself. Although I am not that close to finishing my PhD, I feel that this time will be certainly missed.

Q: How do you feel your project contributes to society? 

Ghufran: As my project specifically focuses on quality design and control, it can contribute to society in terms of improving the process performance and making it more economically viable, and in addition to that, eliminating anything undesired from the final product.

Francesca: Science has great power in terms of improving people’s quality of life, for which excellent teams, economic support and philanthropy are necessary. These are only a few qualities that the Marie Curie CORE-ITN has granted us. From a scientific point of view, we aimed to find efficient routes towards the separation of enantiomers, which is of great interest when it comes to pharmaceutical ingredients. The scientific impact of the research studies might not be visible on society right away, specifically in the case of pharmaceuticals like ours. Nevertheless, we have been able to learn multicultural awareness, emotional intelligence and a team attitude, which are pivotal when it comes to a peaceful and developed society.

Q: Would you recommend working in a Marie-Curie ITN to other people (i.e. students who are about to complete their degree)? Why? 

Ghufran: I would highly recommend working in a Marie Curie ITN programme to students who are keen to work in interdisciplinary fields and utilise their research knowledge to tackle challenges faced in industries.

Francesca: I strongly recommend working in an ITN Marie-Curie project to all committed young researchers who are seeking professional and personal development. A high quality and motivating scientific environment, and a strong network of scientists that come from all around the world with different backgrounds are the features of Marie Curie-ITN programmes. It’s a three programme in which you never stop learning, travelling and growing. It requires an effort though, to get out from your comfort zone and challenge yourself, mostly every day.

Q: How do you see yourself after your experience in an ITN? 

Ghufran: The ITN has provided me a platform with which to gain valuable skills and knowledge to work in an industrial as well as academic environment. Because of the ITN, I feel more confident and capable of working as an individual and resolve the challenges I face in a more tactful manner.

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