From traveling the world to Cellugy’s biorefinery

I’ve been thinking about how to deliver a full picture, readers of Cellugy Blog, on How is it to work for Cellugy. One way to start this would be by listing all the positive insights and share a few nice stories, but I would rather present you first with my journey prior to Cellugy, where you will get the impressions of how one can get closer to the dream job. Happy reading!  

I first moved to Denmark in the Summer of 2015 as being accepted to the Chemical and Biotechnical Science program at Business Academy Aarhus (BAA) for an AP degree. A mandatory part of this program was a one-year internship in 2017, and so I moved to Potsdam in the Berlin area to join a research group for Plant Metabolism and Development at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, and my work contributed to publishing a scientific paper besides my own student project. At that time, I was determined to continue with my studies with an ambition to join the research. The oncoming end of that year brought me to a place where I decided to take one semester off after the internship and go to travel. In the Spring of 2018, I packed my huge backpack with a tent and hit the road to a low-budget backpacking trip around the world while camping or using CouchSurfing. My first stop was Jamaica, where I spent almost a month. Then I continued to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Hawaii, Japan, Malaysia, and Srí Lanka. Traveling like this allowed me to experience many diverse cultures and showed different perspectives on a variety of issues in our lives and the planet. To be more concrete, environmental concerns and social issues connected to it were manifested in the way that plastic is used, and the pollution it brings. My realization of doubts and triggers for change happened at that time thanks to being given the opportunity of living the root causes while traveling. It seems that no matter how different we are culturally, we face the same environmental hurdles. 

At the beginning of 2019, I was looking for a place where I could hold my bachelor’s project. I was set to engage in new career encounters besides the standard research I had been part of in the past. Cellugy provided the right setting for that. During my internship, I worked on my passion for life science, thus contributing to optimize Cellugy’s production process and other matters in materials innovation. Cellugy promotes women in science since we are a 80% women-led startup and as a reference, be inspired by the celebration of the International Women in Engineering Day Celebration which took place this week! At the same time, many opportunities arose to exercise my interests in business partnering and communication of company values together with the rest of the team. It is worth mentioning that start-ups in their early stages could be and should be “picky” with new hires for the core team, so I was genuinely glad that we had a quick fit. This led to work full-time in Cellugy straight after my graduation. 

There is a lot that makes up for “the best” job, but I will try to point out some highlights. As you might know, Cellugy is a biotech start-up that produces innovative biomaterials by a fermentation process. We call our product EcoFLEXY. Its production makes use of renewable resources, and the material has a wide range of possibilities to utilize, with applications in different industries like packaging, cosmetics, and pharma. EcoFLEXY is superior as an alternative to fossil-based plastics. 

One of the many EcoFLEXY’s advantages is the ability to be recycled with paper and board, and biodegrade at room temperature when it comes in contact with soil or rotten fruits and vegetables. Thus, within four weeks, our material is turned into a fertilizer for your garden. The material’s full life-cycle creates a sustainable loop that fulfills the principles of circular economy and aligns with almost one-quarter of SDGs from the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, for example, SDGs number 12, 13, 14 and 15. It is not a surprise anymore how my desire for impact in such an area is being accomplished while creating value in Cellugy. Remember, there are estimated between 4 to 13 million tons of plastics ending up in the oceans every year, and the production and incineration of plastics contributed 850 metric tones of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere last year.
On the other hand, I love the start-up vibe where everything is so agile and the flat organization enhances the friendly atmosphere for a productive working environment. Because of that, I have the right foundation to apply my knowledge and technical skillset, which enriches me the most in terms of my professional and personal growth. I like to take ownership of my work and perform tasks on my time, which introduces a high level of flexibility and adaptability.
Last but not least, all the team members are indeed passionate about the work in Cellugy. Most of them have multiple professional roles, which shows a high level of commitment and dedication to the purpose. It is very inspiring to work with people who give their best versions in everything they are doing and yet be supportive of each other when needed.

I am beyond excited to be part of Cellugy’s journey and contributing to the product’s way to the market. We are driven by the idea of seeing EcoFLEXY into the customer’s hands, and facilitating the reduction of plastic that leaks in the environment. I strongly believe that one day, sooner rather than later, when we will walk along the Caribbean beaches, taking a furious bus in the Jamaicans mountains, climbing volcanoes in Guatemala or discovering beauties of Asia, we will find less littered plastic items in nature, and people making better purchasing decisions due to having EcoFLEXY as an alternative for their packaging.

Reach out if you want to hear more about the story either through email, LinkedIn, or let’s try CouchSurfing next time you travel to Denmark!

Greetings, 

Katerina

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