Featuring Stefan Simic, PhD Student in the University of Graz

We are delighted to highlight Stefan Simic’s activity within the CLASSY project. He is a PhD Student at the University of Graz, Austria and he has contributed to the project by applying his knowledge to demonstrate how can enzymes and light be jointly useful. He made a great research on the power of biocatalysis in the development of cell-like molecular assembly lines. In this short interview, Stefan shares some insights into his work and experience as a doctoral researcher working within the CLASSY research and innovation action.

How did you get into this field of research?

I came from an organic chemistry background, which deals with the properties and preparation of small molecules. Of course, nature has been making small molecules long before humans and I was fascinated by the sophistication of nature’s synthetic machinery (enzymes). That’s why I decided to look for a PhD in a group that is well-established in the field of enzyme catalysis (biocatalysis) and this led me to the Elk Crew at the University of Graz.

Why did you apply for a researcher position with CLASSY?

I didn’t actually know any details about the position before the interview, but when I was told I would be working with a light-dependent enzyme in flow, that sounded quite exciting and new, and it was indeed.

What do you think you bring to the CLASSY team besides your expertise?

As I enjoy taking part in science communication events and presenting research to the public, I was happy to contribute to various dissemination activities of CLASSY.

What is the most important quality you consider a researcher should have?

I would say, to do good science it’s important to have excellent understanding of your topic and to be rigorous with experiments and data analysis. Doing research is a bit like having a conversation with nature, by doing experiments you ask questions and through data, nature provides the answers. It’s important to know how to ask the right questions and then to know how to decipher the answers.

What is your favorite memory during CLASSY so far?

That would probably be the kick-off meeting in Zurich. It was my very first contact with CLASSY, everything felt big, new and exciting and the meeting location (ETH Zurich) definitely contributed to it.

What are your aspirations for your research? (explain what you would like to do after your PhD)

What I would like to see as a follow-up of my research and understanding of the topic is the improvement of stability of the enzyme we studied and the discovery of more similar enzymes. However, I probably won’t be personally involved in these findings as I am looking for a new and different set of challenges in industrial/corporate settings.

Let’s leave science aside, what other hobbies do you have?

Having lived in Austria for around 4 years, I enjoy hiking in the Austrian Alps on a regular basis. I’ve also always enjoyed learning foreign languages (German being the most recent focus, of course). I also enjoy reading popular and not-so-popular psychology and recently I started giving dancing a try.