We interviewed one of our senior students to give you further insight into life in The Parc. According to Ondra's colleagues, he is very outgoing, a great person to work with and does his best to fulfill his roles and duties. He is a researcher, consultant of several bachelor and master students and a fresh father. Meet Ondra Rychecký!
Hello Ondra, thank you for making the time for this interview! From what I understand, your PhD studies are coming close to their end? Could you please quickly summarize, what your main PhD topic is about?
Hi, yes, I’m in my fourth year, looking to finish my thesis this or the next year. My main topic is lipid-based pharmaceutical formulations using liquid marbles. Basically, I produce spherical drugcontaining droplets coated by a thin layer of powder, which can be used as a reliable way to administer drugs and in some cases even to enhance the treatment effectivity through controlled drug release.
Great, so you can answer my questions from the perspective of an experienced The Parc member now. Before we get to your current status, have you always wanted to go for a PhD in science of technology? Was this area your goal even back in secondary school?
Well, in secondary school I only knew I liked the technical subjects – math, physics and chemistry… back then, chemistry seemed the most practical to me. But as for the PhD, I didn’t really plan to go for it. During my master thesis, I wasn’t really sure that doing research fulfills me. But then I discussed the potential future of my project with my supervisor, František Štěpánek and he introduced me to a very interesting possibility - use the findings from my master thesis to develop a new pharmaceutical formulation method with practical application in collaboration with the Zentiva company! It was very appealing to me, that I could have the opportunity to consult my work with industrial experts from formulation department of Zentiva development. They supported me a lot and many ideas have arisen during discussions. Moreover, I could also use real formulation devices for my work. Looking back, I definitely do not regret I have decided to do my PhD this way.
Glad to hear that! So I guess if you could move back in time, you would have chosen the same path?
Yes. I would totally do it again, because in retrospective, I realized that doing PhD does not have to be just about the laboratory and occasional studying. You have to also manage yourself – you apply for grants, make presentations for varying audiences, organize work in group projects and consult with experienced experts. Most of the PhD students also supervise master and bachelor students, learning about leadership, motivation and management. Soft skills training organized by Zentiva helped me in understanding of these issues, which are crucial for further personal growth.
What role did The Parc play in your decision process? Do you think you would have applied for the PhD even if there wasn’t the possibility to collaborate with industry?
Most probably not, I wanted a change and felt that staying at the university wasn’t the top option for me anymore. Doing research without an industrial partner wasn’t “sexy” enough (laughs).
Occasionally, we still get questions about what The Parc actually is and what it does, how would you define it yourself? What are you telling your relatives when they ask you what’s so special about your PhD?
It’s a platform, which enables us to have regular meetings with specialists and leaders from different fields in academy and industry. Thanks to The Parc, I can discuss most of my results freely with the group, we are not competing with each other. We work as a team, even if we all work on different things. Personally, I got lots of ideas and inspiration from listening to my colleague's presentations and engaging in subsequent discussion.
I heard you also went abroad during your PhD studies?
Yeah, that’s right, thanks to the ORBIS project granted to Zentiva I was able to have a four-month internship at the Trinity College in Dublin, which is the oldest University in Ireland. It was really nice, because I could try completely different techniques - I worked with ionic liquids, but I also learned a lot about characterization and analysis of solid and liquid solutions, which helped me later in my own project. I especially appreciate the smooth organization of the secondment and the overall support from my supervisor in Dublin (some of my former classmates went for internships abroad and spent a ton of time just with administrative stuff).
How would you describe the atmosphere in The Parc? Is it an open collective or are you just in touch with a few specific people?
I would say it’s really open, you can talk to anyone, although you often need to find a specialist for a given scientific area. But at the largest meetings, the regular Parc symposiums, you can meet most of them, sometimes even external collaborating experts from abroad.
Is there something you would like to change in the organization or concept of The Parc?
Hm, right now I don’t have any suggestions or wishes about that… The whole concept is so unique in Czech pharmaceutical research that I can not imagine how else it could have been done.
How is it with your schedule? Does the PhD take up most of your time or do you still have enough time for other activities?
I think in this aspect it’s very close to a normal job, but still with more freedom, unless there is some deadline coming (laughs). I definitely have time to pursue my hobbies like swimming and raising awareness about water ecology and purification technologies. There was also a huge change in my life, half a year ago I became a father and since then I tried to spend as much time as possible with my lovely daughter and my wonderful girlfriend. In addition to that, I enjoy walking in the czech forests and mountains and hanging out with my friends. It’s not just the occasional meetings in pubs, last time for example we all met at my parents place to celebrate the traditional carnival. During the quarantine due to COVID-19, we also had some videoconference-style parties (laughs).
Now let me finish with a question that’s mostly unpopular among PhD students, do you know what you want to do after you finish? Do you have some ideas?
Yes I have, I definitely want to finish the project I’m working on first and after that, I would like to work in the commercial sphere. I also have some specific plans in mind, but I would like to keep them private until I’m completely sure.
Of course, I understand. Thank you for your time, we’re glad to have you on our team :-)
May 19. 2020