Why My Love for Life Drove Me from 6 to 5

Edwin Chingate (ESR3)

Hi! my name is Edwin, I’m from Colombia, the 6th country with more fresh water1 in the world. Almost three months ago I started my PhD in Germany in water treatment. Germany has been very interesting for me because here, people care a lot about water. At the point, that this is the 5th country with more research in topics related to water2. That’s the reason for me to be here. I’m an early-stage researcher in Nowelties project and my goal is to understand the mechanisms behind the microbial degradation of contaminants such as pharmaceuticals in water. At this moment of my life, I just traveled from the other side of the world for love and to keep growing as a researcher and as a person.

When I was a child I was wondered by nature. I loved to watch Animal Planet on TV and feel delighted with the wonders on the Earth. Also, since then I am eager to understand stuff around me. I tried to make predictions of what could happen and figure out the mechanisms behind that. It has always been a big challenge for me to apply this approach to living systems, but as I grew up and learned more, I noticed that life by itself is not very different to other phenomena in nature.

Because of my passion in science, I chose not to do one but two bachelors. The first one was in Chemical Engineering. Even when the focus of this career is not on the same scale as microorganisms, the principles that I learned can be used to understand the microbial metabolism and its  behavior. And as I still wanted to go deep in more related to life topics such as biochemistry and molecular biology, my second bachelor was in Chemistry. Thanks to this formation now I can understand a lot of phenomena in the world around me and contribute to the development of a better planet.

Although most of the knowledge I acquired through both majors can be applied in biology, in the end, I felt that there was a lot more to learn. So, I decided to start a master in bioinformatics in order to go deeply into biological sciences. My master’s main focus was in systems biology, metabolic modeling and metabolic interactions in microbial communities. After all of this, I’m aware of the key role of microorganisms in every ecosystem and that without them a world as we know it wouldn’t be possible, so it’s very important for us to understand the way they live.

Water is key for life, without water there is no life. Society must care more about the fate of wastewater as water resources become scarce. In the near future, potable water supply for cities around the world will come from wastewater treatment plants. Wastewater treatment is one of the biggest challenges in our modern society and microorganisms play an important role in most of the technologies developed for this aim.

After the path that I have been following in recent years, my advice to everyone is to fall in love with a topic. I have experienced that this love keep growing, just as I am living this experience right now. So I think that it was natural for me to continue my formation with a PhD, even though I am pretty sure that I am never gonna stop my learning process. It is not about my professional development because I do portrait myself as a full-time scientist. It is rather about my own life and personal growth. This looking for happiness is going very well as I am very happy with this new adventure called Ph.D.


1Miaschi, John. “Which Country Has the Most Fresh Water?” WorldAtlas, Sept. 24, 2018, worldatlas.com/articles/countries-with-the-most-freshwater-resources.html.

2Data from Scopus ®