The new year began with the arrival of a new PhD student to the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF’s Industrial PhD Programme: Ilija Sazdovski (b. Skopje, Macedonia), the recipient of the Ball Corporation predoctoral fellowship.
Ilija holds a BS in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius and a MS in Ecological Economics from the Integrated Business Institute at Skopje. He is a member of the International Association of Energy Engineers and between 2012 and 2018 he was part of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Conference for Sustainable Development of Energy, Water and Environmental Systems. Ilija is also author of the National Energy Monitoring System for local self-governments, and co-author of the III National Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2016-2018 for Macedonia.
He has now joined the Chair under the collaboration established in 2018 by the research group and the global leader in metal packaging, aimed at developing and applying the life cycle assessment methodology to packaging waste management. The PhD Candidate will study the determinants that reinforce or weaken the hierarchy of waste management, including prevention, preparation for reuse, recycling, other types of recovery and, finally, the elimination of waste. We went along to meet him.
What led you to do a PhD in the field of environmental engineering?
I am an environmentalist, and I have worked in the environmental sector for the last 15 years. I started as a volunteer in an environmental NGO when I was a student, and my career has progressed in this field as a project developer and implementer, engaged by USAID, UNDP, and GIZ, providing technical assistance to different stakeholders in the field of energy and climate. Before joining the Chair, I was working as an International expert for the establishment of National Monitoring Reporting and Verification System for greenhouse gases in Armenia engaged by United Nations. Thus, starting a PhD in the field of environmental engineering is a logical step forward.
“For achieving sustainability we need theory to ensure that project outcomes find their way into mainstream practice,” highlights Ilija.
How has your previous experience prepared you for a scientific career?
My previous career was based on providing fast track solutions for energy or climate change policies, and I think that this problem-solving approach will be really useful for my future scientific career. Also, for achieving sustainability we need theory to ensure that project outcomes find their way into mainstream practice. This academic thinking was something that I was missing in my career: the theoretical background of the solutions for sustainability is what I would like to work on.
What are your career goals and how will the Ball Corporation predoctoral fellowship help you achieve them?
When I was notified about the results of the procurement process for the position, I immediately went through the sustainability reports of Ball Corporation, finding that their goals merge perfectly with my career objectives: increasing the sustainability of processes and procedures in every way possible.
Photo: Ilija Sazdovski and Adam Shalapin, Sustainability Manager at Ball Corporation, during a visit to the AluNort plant in Neuss, Germany
With respect to initiatives of this kind, do you think it is important to promote partnerships between academia and industry?
Building successful partnerships between academia and industry allow us to see the practical results of our research, and offers a fast modification of the scientific approach based on the field results. Having in mind that especially in the field of climate change we do not have much time to waste, reporting back from the practitioners to the scientist is really important to achieve a more sustainable future.
What do you think your PhD training is going to be like? What are your first impressions of the Chair?
During my career, I have been mainly focused on developing energy policies. But, four years ago I was invited to lecture at the Energy Community Summer School for Postgraduate students and started to research on the multi-criteria analysis of different energy scenarios. Then, I realized that the future cannot be addressed only using ‘kilowatt hours or tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions,’ and there are certain aspects that we need to consider for a proper characterization of different scenarios. Even though the energy has a predominant role in the field of climate change, if we do not consider other environmental influences, as well as social and economic aspects, we cannot find a proper solution for sustainability. In this sense, performing research on Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) at the Chair will increase my capacities for sustainability assessments.
Furthermore, having a wide range of research fields at the Chair, I will strengthen my skills and capabilities considering that, similar to the sustainability, the LCA is multidisciplinary. Also, I would really like to thank my colleagues from the Chair for fast accommodation to the new post, because after about 10 working days coming into the office I felt like I am working here for a year.
“We are not saving the Earth, we are actually saving our existence on the planet,” says Ilija.
Give us an idea about what you are like, how would you describe yourself? And, outside the office, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I consider myself to be an optimistic person. If you are not an optimist in the field of environment, you just quit. Also, there are two things that define my personality. One is music: I used to play music, and I have a huge collection of vinyl records and CDs and that was really hard to be transferred to Barcelona. But I did it. The second aspect is nature: I am a passionate hiker, snowboarder, and I love biking outdoors, among others. Which brings me to a personal non-scientific goal for my PhD studies: I will climb the Pica d’Estats, the highest point of Catalonia. I found nature in Catalonia to be breathtaking, as well as people’s approach towards it.
Reflecting on how you got here, what advice would you give to those who are thinking about getting involved in research?
I am still young in academia and I cannot give advice towards involving in academic research. But I can give advice about something else that I know. The most famous slogan in the field of environment: “Save the Earth,” is wrong. We are not saving the Earth, we are actually saving our existence on the planet. The planet will be perfectly fine without us. In that sense, everybody should do something to their maximum extent. If that is volunteering in an environmental NGO, fine, if that is changing our habits, fine, and if that is doing research in the field of environment and starting a PhD, then is that. I think that everybody can do something about decreasing our environmental footprint.