Selma Mededovic Thagard Interview
Did Dr. Thagard choose plasmas as her field of study or did plasmas choose her?
Get the answer and other interesting thoughts and information about the commercialization of the technology, team management and Selma’s hobbies in the exclusive interview that Selma gave to The Science and Engineering Cafe.
I look forward to your comments and questions!
What made you choose plasma as your field of study?
I would say that the plasma chose me. I was working as a research and development engineer in Croatia when my old undergraduate thesis advisor called me and asked whether I would want to go to the USA to pursue a PhD in plasma engineering. I believe I started packing that night.
Did you consider other studies other than plasma science?
Yes, organic chemistry. I actually double majored in organic chemistry and chemical engineering.
What advice would you give to someone who is now entering the field?
Read papers. Learn what others have done in the field so you don’t re-invent the wheel. Have open mind. Be creative with your experiments.
How much did your mentor influence you?
My mentor definitely influenced my mentoring style. He created a perfect learning environment for his students and provided guidance at the most critical times. Note to young academic professionals: do not micromanage. Yes, they (the students) will leave the lab on Friday at 5 pm and will not show up until Sunday afternoon.
Has the technology that you are working on been commercialized?
Not yet but we are working on it. We have recently developed a foaming electrical discharge plasma reactor which rapidly and effectively degrades different surfactants in wastewater, particularly PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (perfluoorooctanesulfonic acid) into smaller, less toxic compounds and is the only competitive reductive technology currently available for the treatment of large volumes of mixtures of PFCs (perfluorinated compounds) and other non-oxidizable compounds. While competitive for trace organic contaminant removal, our environmentally friendly technology reduces the cost of treatment for PFCs as much as 50-80% and with lower capital costs.
Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
I enjoy playing music and studying languages and have recently discovered yoga. I would also really like to learn how to draw. However, I am lacking that one essential ingredient-raw talent.
Describe a time in your career that you had to make a difficult decision.
There was a time in my life when I wondered whether I really want to go into academia. I was thinking about completely switching my career.
Describe a fun moment in your career.
Talking to second graders about plasmas (it happens once a year). They are so much fun and ask tough questions! When visiting a local elementary school I always bring my plasma ball. We discuss four states of matter, the Universe, the Iron Man, puppies, volcanoes, etc.