Both fun and very interesting

Kevin van Schoorl did his research project on a topic he had no experience with. But together with his supervisor, he managed to produce results that will most likely be published. "For me it was both fun and very interesting. It felt like a hands on training in project management: how do you get from zero to a thesis in ten months?" His thesis was rated 8.5 (out of 10). His advice: go for projects that interest you, but also for the people you will work with, and learn from.

Kevin graduated cum laude for his Bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the Hague University of Applied Sciences. After a premaster in Chemistry at UU, he enrolled in the Science and Business Management Master’s programme.

For his research project, he wanted a subject with a ‘practical’ meaning. The project coordinator of Chemistry had an overview of projects on offer from which he selected a few that seemed interesting to him. After contacting the Postdocs and PhD students by mail, 3 interviews followed. It was PhD student Sophie van Vreeswijk from the Weckhuysen Research Group he chose for.

“Sophie was very relaxed and gave me the feeling that I was in charge myself. The proposal of the research plan was from her, but after reading the literature I worked this out, including options depending on the outcomes of the experiments.”

About the subject of his research project – The use of zeolites, more specific ZSM-5, as catalyst in the methanol to hydrocarbon process– he didn’t know much. The group had no prior knowledge about the synthesis of ZSM-5 in large crystal form. However, Kevin managed to synthesize the catalyst in the form of large crystals and discovered that it deactivates in two ways.

“Regarding theoretical knowledge, I think the UU-bachelor students were a little ahead of me. But I was more experienced in the practical parts and in the organisation of my work.”

Having to realise a thesis in 10 months starting from zero, felt for him like a training in project management. “I learnt to plan everything I needed to do myself, to very structurally look ahead at every step I needed to take and to see who I needed to go to if help was required. To me that was both fun and very informative, also because you see and learn from how other students do this.”