PhD interview: Chemical engineering in the service of the life sciences

Monday 19 Aug 19
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by Frederik Appel Olsen

Lukasz Ruszczynski explains his research on thermodynamic modelling and data evaluation for life science applications.

At DTU Chemical Engineering, the many PhD students are a vital part in the scientific life of the department. We asked newly graduated PhD Lukasz Ruszczynski five questions about his project “Thermodynamic modelling and data evaluation for life sciences applications”.

What is the essence of your PhD project?

My project was about a thermodynamic modelling and data evaluation for life sciences applications. In particular, the focus was on the modelling and evaluation of certain, crucial process-product design properties such as liquid-liquid equilibria and solubility of solids in solvents in multicomponent systems. 

These properties are relevant in the design of unit operations such as liquid-liquid extraction, extractive distillation or crystallization in the downstream processing of biologically active compounds e.g. pharmaceuticals. 

The project consisted of two parts: 1) Development of the thermodynamic properties models, 2) development of the methods for evaluation of the experimental data. 

What did you discover during your research?

In my work, I have developed, tested and extended models, based on the theory arising from statistical thermodynamics, describing liquid-liquid equilibria and solubility of active species in solvents in binary and ternary systems. The proposed models are simple in form and nearly rigorous. 

The second part of the project was devoted to the development of the validation framework of the experimental solubility and miscibility data by the means of the above-mentioned models. In the last few years, an exponential growth of the rate of reporting data has been observed. Therefore methods, which help screening for reliable data are needed.

I have achieved my main contribution in the almost unexplored area of quality assessment of the ternary solubility data.

What are the possible wider implications of your research for society?

The models and validation methodologies that I developed can help in the identification of erroneous data to prevent their use in process-product design. When one studies compounds involved in e.g. human health, it is important to minimize the errors in the values of the properties of these components. Moreover, the use of validated models can pose an alternative to the experimental way of obtaining data, which in general can reduce the number of necessary experiments and subsequently shorten the time of the experiments. Overall, this ensures that we can find the best possible process alternative much faster.

What made you apply for a PhD position at DTU Chemical Engineering?

I did my Master’s project in physical chemistry/applied thermodynamics in Poland. I always wanted to continue my education as a PhD student. I found the position at DTU Chemical Engineering, which seemed to be suitable for me. It was within the same research domain and involved modelling, which I wanted to try on top of the experimental work I had conducted. Moreover, the project was under EU H2020 auspices, so I have seen additional opportunities for training and personal development.

What does the future hold for you?

For now, I have chosen to find work in the industry, especially in companies involved in the production of biomolecules/pharmaceuticals.