From a Toy Microscope to an Electron Microscope

Nebojša Ilić (ESR13)

Writing your story down, what defines you, in a few sentences is no easy task but it is definitely an interesting way to take a break from reading scientific articles and planning experiments.

My name is Nebojša Ilić, and I am a chemical engineer from Serbia.

I am pursuing a joint PhD in environmental engineering at the Technical University of Munich and the University of Santiago de Compostela.

In my opinion, being an engineer is not just a diploma, it is a character trait and a part of your personality. Even as a child I used to run around the house fiddling with anything I could get my hands on, always curious how something works and collecting small broken appliances to see how they work.

The first gift I ever asked for was a microscope. I used it to study everyday things, such as rainwater, particles of sand, leaf structure etc.

This passion transferred to elementary school, where I worked on small projects with friends and our Crafts teacher, making a very basic RC car, an elevating bridge model and so on.

Over the years, I have developed a very intense passion towards science, but the idea to apply for a chemistry related field came after accidentally synthesizing an ester in the chemistry lab in high school. I was amazed how something that smells so wonderful can come from such common ingredients.

The love towards water and the environment has always been a part of who I am and it only kept growing through study exchanges and research projects in other countries and through collaborations with some great people along the way.

Observing the world for the perfect system that it is and studying the essential role of water in this system has since been my passion. The complex patterns that emerge from simple everyday events. Organisms working with one another in a symbiosis. The world around us is a big playground and applying state of the art science to improve the quality of the most precious resource on the planet is a dream come true.

That is how I went from a toy microscope to a scanning electron microscope, and finally as a fellow of the NOWELTIES project (ESR 13) from Belgrade to Munich, to try and push the science forward and help our already strained ecosystem.

The goal? To remove those annoying perfluorinated compounds from water.

I think it is by now clear how passionate I am about this topic, and finding your passion is in my opinion the most important factor for success.