INTERVIEW with Ing. Miroslava Bérešová (Mališová), PhD., Top Student Personality of Slovakia and Scholarship Holder of the Action Austria - Slovakia programme

Miroslava Bérešová (Mališová) is a young Slovak scientist from the Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology of the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, who is doing research in the field of biodiesel.  Her aim is to prepare ecological alternatives to diesel from non-food sources. As a scholarship holder of the bilateral programme Action Austria – Slovakia, cooperation in science and education, she carried out a research stay at the Technical University of Vienna, Institute of Materials Chemistry.

Source: private photography of M. MališováSource: private photography of M. Mališová

Nowadays are research topics, which can contribute to better ecological environment and climate of highest importance. Can you tell us what is your research about and how the results of your scientific work could change the world that we live in?

For some time now, specifically since my bachelor thesis (2017), I have been researching preparation of advanced biofuels. Mostly I am focusing on biodiesel as an ecological alternative for commercial diesel fuel. I am not only looking for optimal non-food source but also working on improving the technological process of producing biodiesel. We are trying to develop a technological process that is environmentally friendly and eco-friendly. The goal is to produce biodiesel as an ecological fuel and as one of the alternatives for gradually replacing fossil fuels. We should not only focus on one alternative such as electricity but explore multiple options.

In your research what is the biological material or plant you use for producing fuel and what are the advantages and disadvantages of this method of producing biofuel. Can you also tell us something more about the improvements in the technological processes that you mentioned?

Currently, I am focusing on finding non-food oils for biodiesel preparation. Nowadays mostly food oils such as sunflower and rapeseed oils are used. My research is mostly focused on Camelina sativa oil, which is a non-food oil. The plant is relatively resistant to drought and can grow even in contaminated places. We are also trying to find waste oils such as coffee oil, produced from coffee waste. The technology, that is currently used in technology needs for biodiesel production large amounts of water, to clean biodiesel to the required purity. We are trying to find a catalytic system, that could make a cleaner product without the necessity of cleaning biodiesel after preparation.

Currently you are working at the Faculty of Chemical and Food Technology of the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava. During your PhD. studies you spent 5 months at the Technical University in Vienna in the framework of a bilateral scholarship programme Action Austria – Slovakia, cooperation in science and education. Why have you decided to apply for a scholarship stay to Austria and how was your stay at the Institute of Materials chemistry of the TU Wien?

In the first place, I wanted to experience what it is like at a foreign university. What is the research, study, and overall life like on a different academic ground. An international stay like this can greatly enrich the career of a starting scientist and bring contacts for lifetime. And so it happened. I really enjoyed the stay, met a lot of people from my field, tried new techniques that I do not have access at home. I also looked at research from different perspective and brought home interesting results.

Source: private photography of M. MališováSource: private photography of M. Mališová

Where these results important for your research in the field of biofuels?

Yes, the results that I obtained in Vienna improved my research. I was able to see materials, that I work with in different ways, using new techniques. Also, I was able to finalize some of my previous measurements which led to publications in highly cited journals.

How is life in Austria, and especially in Vienna, where you were living during your research stay? What about language barriers? 

Life in Austria, in my opinion, is not that different from life in Slovakia. Vienna is a beautiful city, and I can only praise the life there. They have well-organized transportation: you can easily get anywhere. I lived in the oeAD dormitories called Pop Up Dorms on the outskirt of Vienna. But as I said, the subway is everywhere, so accessibility was easy. I had very well-equipped single room, with two bathrooms and small kitchen for four girls. I do not think there is a language barrier in Vienna. It is possible to communicate in English everywhere, and my beginner knowledge if German was just occasionally useful for practice.

The Action Austria - Slovakia is a bilateral programme, i.e. it also offers scholarships possibilities to Austrian students, university teachers and researchers interested in study and research stay in Slovakia, and it also support project cooperation between Slovak and Austrian universities and research institutions. What do you think that Slovakia has to offer to Austrian partners?

I think that research in Slovakia and Austria has a large number of common topics. Research in Slovakia is at a world-class level, so it has a lot to offer for foreign partners. Universities both in Slovakia and Austria are full of experts in various fields, and building collaborations is beneficial for both sides. 

Source: private photography of M. MališováSource: private photography of M. Mališová

Is a research stay abroad important for young scientists? What where the assets of your stay in Austria for your research, future career and for you as a person?

I think it is very important. Nowadays, research is advancing at a rapid pace, and it is necessary to keep up with it. This is only possible through collaboration. It is beneficial for every young person to see how things work abroad and bring something back home from there. Not to mention the benefits associated with improving professional language skills. It brought me a lot. Thanks to my participation in the program, I have received several awards, publications, as well as a new grant to support my research. Lastly, I have gained several insights on how to lead my research in the future. 

You are the author of several scientific publications with a significant citation response.  Can a stay abroad help young scientist to improve their publication results?

Definitely yes. Not only in terms of access to technologies and methods that may not be available at the home university, but also in terms of different perspective on the progress of the research or the results. It is true that two heads are better than one when it comes to wisdom.

Source: private photography of M. MališováSource: private photography of M. Mališová

What are your plans for the future?

In the future, I definitely see myself in research. My plans are clear. I am to seek ecological solutions to environmental problems. I will continue to focus on this research of biodiesel with determination and dedication. My main goals are to publish, achieve good results, and build further collaborations.

Congratulations to your prizes you won last year. You became a Top Student Personality of Slovakia, winner of a student competition organized under the auspices of the President of the Slovak Republic and under the professional guarantee of the Slovak Rector's Conference and the Slovak Academy of Sciences. You have also become a laureate of the Student Personality of Slovakia Award for Natural Sciences and Chemistry and the Uniqa Award for sustainability and won other prizes. What do you recommend to young scientists who would like to achieve the kind of success you have achieved?

Thank you so much. I just recommend to not be discouraged by failures. In the path of every scientist, there will be obstacles, moments when results are not as expected, experiments at which you work for hours do not go as planned, or project or grant what one has been striving for does not work. The key is to persevere, and success will come. As I like to say, even the journey is goal.

 

Action Austria - Slovakia bilateral programme is funded by the Ministry of Education, Research, Development and Youth of the Slovak Republic and Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research in Austria.

Administrators of the programme are SAIA, n. o., in Slovakia and OeAD-GmbH in Austria. More information on the programme is available at:

Action Austria - Slovakia, Cooperation in Science and Education