What does The Parc mean to one of our most active student supervisors from the industry? Meet Pavel Kovačík, freshly married and now also on a new career path. Over the last years, he facilitated multiple PhD research projects and provided assistance to many of our students while performing the duties of his job as a leading formulation manager.
Hello Pavel, I know how busy you must be now with so many life changes, so thank you for making the time for this interview! You were one of our most active supervisors from the industry, how many students did you consult/lead? When did you start doing this?
Hello and thank you for having me here today! I am really pleased that I got this opportunity.
Well, I think that I started right after I joined Zentiva in 2015. It was a very nice part of my job and I was happy that I could maintain the contact with academic field. Since then I supervised six PhD candidates – Marek, Terka, Jirka, Matej, Pavlina and Sarah and in cooperation with them also many undergraduate students. It was a pleasure to witness their scientific and personal growth.
Being a former PhD student even before the creation of The Parc, would you have wanted to enroll in this program if it was possible back then? What do you think is the main difference between your PhD studies in the past and those of the Parc students now?
No doubts at all. The Parc offers a unique opportunity to boost your PhD programme, it elevates it from academic research to something that is relevant to current industrial challenges. I was lucky back in my PhD because I got similar opportunity from BASF company and did my thesis in cooperation with them partially.
How often did you consult the PhD projects with your students? What other activities did you regularly do which are connected to their studies?
There is no clear answer to how often. My philosophy is that each of the students or employees requires personal approach. What suits one, can be a frustrating disaster to another one. And what suits you today can be inconvenient later. For example, Matej prefers freedom so my role was more like background observer providing all what was needed for his research. Our consultations were driven by Matej’s needs and the communication was very unofficial. Meanwhile with Tereza we had regular and firm schedule of meetings and consultations and the communication was purely official. Some students required more attention in their first years but as they developed they became independent and my role as supervisor less important. In my opinion, this is the ultimate goal of any PhD regardless the topic of the work.
Being a supervisor brings you also additional duties like taking care of all the bureaucracy which stems from the fact, that your students have approach and access to needed equipment and material in Zentiva and that they are properly trained. Furthermore, I participated in various grant applications, papers in Journals and commented several master and bachelor theses of their students.
People often fear that student supervision on top of a full-time job would be taxing, did you have time to pursue other activities or was it all a little too overwhelming?
This is a really subjective topic. I was doing it voluntarily and I did enjoy it. Of course that it consumed my time but on the other hand it was very refreshing. Students have enthusiasm, motivation and desire to prove themself and you can utilize it for yourself. Just keep the positive approach, do your time management and it will pay off. Moreover, the advantage of the Zentiva and The Parc collaboration is that students work on real industrial problems. For example, the work done by Marek during his PhD was appreciated and used in one of the Zentiva project in the development pipeline. Jiri helped to solve a problem of our colleagues in Romania. His modelling was very useful for them and he got the chance to solve an existing problem in production. It was an amazing job. I was lucky to have great students and I was delighted with the possibility to assist them during their career.
I am convinced that you should always pursue some other activities than work, otherwise you can burn out easily. Should the life be a chair, then work is only one of the legs which support it. It is paradoxical that my main off-Zentiva activity was related to another job. As a member of Novasport production team I was often at Novasport during the weekends which was work and hobby at the same time. Still there was enough time to enjoy regular football and squash sessions with my friends, travel around the world and, in the first place, to spend significant time with my wife.
We aim to provide the best work environment and support for our students, but a research project is still not strictly outlined, sometimes conditions or even goals have to change based on new findings and circumstances. Did you ever encounter a significant problem, holdup with your student’s projects?
That is actually the beauty of it. Research is something that is not strictly outlined, something that changes constantly and something that brings you to totally unexpected endings and findings. If this does not suit someone, then this person should work in a different area. Join the Parc, cooperate with Zentiva and you will never experience a routine. The only certainty is that you will have access to top class equipment and solve very interesting scientific challenges. I own a licence for doing audits, thanks to it I had the possibility to inspect a lot of pharma companies and I can assure you that the equipment and science in Parc is at top level. I was also at universities in Ireland, Finland and United States and the possibilities we have at UCT and Zentiva are more than competitive. Though it is not in Czech nature, we should be confident and proud of it.
And yes, it is not always a sunny day and you can struggle with your research and project. But keep in mind that a negative result is also a result and very often even more important than a positive one. For example, we struggled with Matej in the topic related to 3D printing for almost a year and half. But Matej did not give up and nowadays he is the principal investigator of a TAČR grant, generates amazing results, spent internship in Finland, works on his own patent and each of his presentations at conferences attract attention.
How would you describe the atmosphere in The Parc? Did you generally get along with your students?
It is very easy to describe it with two words – friendly and relaxed. Many of the Parc students became my close friends and we spend our free time regularly together. We even spent some abroad holidays together.
Is there something you would like to change in the organization or concept of The Parc?
Yes, I shared my ideas with Parc representatives frequently. The whole project was formed and continuously developed using feedback from both students and supervisors. This interview serves for another purpose than making my ideas public.
You are currently in the process of changing careers, do you aim to continue working with students of The Parc in some form in the future?
I do and I do hope that we will find a solution allowing me to stay connected!
Thank you again, we are looking forward to collaborate with you on future research projects and activities!
Thanks a lot for the time and all the experience gained during the Parc adventure.
September 8. 2020