Meet our alumnus Filip Stankovikj

Alumni club gathers great young professionals who strive for excellence in everything they do. Every time we talk to them new horizons open, we learn things and discover again and again how beautiful the World is.

This time we present you our alumnus Filip Stankovikj.

A word or two about yourself13012835_10153360022376008_143824103970630910_n

Hi, I am Filip, a genuinely nice guy from Skopje, Macedonia! ? I have spent most of my life and education in my hometown, graduating as a mechanical engineer from the University of Ss. Cyril and Methodius in Skopje, worked for two years in industry, up until 2011 when I got awarded the prestigious Fulbright Science and Technology Award to pursue doctoral degree studies at Washington State University. I initially specialized in thermal technology and renewable energy, appending additional skills of analytical chemistry and chemical engineering during my PhD. I have developed a wide range of interests and expertise related to the science and technology behind building “bio-economy”, sustainable future, renewable fuels, chemicals and energy, to entrepreneurship and building businesses around those concepts. It is my conviction that as residents of the only planet we have, we need to better take care of the planet Earth, we ought to understand and close the cycles in the nature, so that the future generations inherit a good place for pursuing their happiness! I am here to help! On another note, I keep myself physically active. I love mountain biking, and currently I got into learning kite-boarding. I avidly pursue random hobbies, and whenever I find time I fiddle with my Raspberry Pi. That would be briefly it…

Back in 2007 you had a chance to work in Bosch Thermotechnology GmbH. How would you describe that experience and your time in Germany?

It was truly transformative experience, and it not only opened my eyes for how challenging and interesting some engineering development problems can be, but it also changed my preconceptions about the German culture and people. With my small group of coworkers and mentors at Bosch in Wernau, we worked on developing and testing models for energy efficient heating systems composed of gas fired condensing boilers and solar-thermal panels integrated in typical two-story houses of southern Germany. In effect, this was a lot of time spent on coding, debugging, code integration, which resulted in developing faster and more accurate models that informed the development of the controls for such a system. On the other note, Germans like to grab beer after work and socialize. Germans were supposed to be rigid, cold, punctual, always serious, on the opposite, I got to know that many are quite friendly, they enjoy good conversation and argument, they are respectful of one’s time and space, and do tell jokes very often. Germany is a well-organized society, but not perfect or ideal as perceived on the Balkans. Hard work has its toll on the social life, the administration in banks, companies, the government inevitably makes mistakes and sometimes it takes long time until things get straightened out, but you feel assured that someone cares and gives all their best to get on top of your problem/case. My experience is that people there do really care!

Fig 1First day in Germany with few of our fellows in front of the Berliner Dom

After returning to Macedonia from your internship in Germany you became a coordinator of the alumni club of the Internship Programme of German Business in Macedonia. How the time after internship looked like?

After the six-month stay in Germany, I needed couple of months for cultural re-adjustment; however, I had clear targets on where I wanted to be and what I needed to do, thus it was a race to the finish line to graduate, and then apply for jobs and graduate school. Immediately, I noticed there were no mechanisms in place for transfer of my skills, knowledge and experience, a sort of disconnect between the program and the real sector in Macedonia, but I came back packed with enthusiasm, and I had desire to spill over some of it around and bring positive change to my community. I kept myself busy organizing gatherings within our small group of alumni, we brainstormed about how to shape and trace the future of the alumni club in Macedonia, eventually all our efforts resulted in bringing the second regional alumni conference in Ohrid. I believe that was a little kick to more brainstorming on a regional level, and instigated the member of the alumni network to think on what could they do to improve the regional collaboration and bond, and how can they have higher impact on the positive change in our respective countries.

When you think alumni club, what is first that comes to your mind?

I see it as a club of amazingly talented and good-hearted people and professionals from the Balkans, willing to improve their communities and elevate the competitiveness of their native countries with a goal of making them an equal part of the highly developed world. All the participants in this program prove they can make admirable contribution to their host company and to the respective communities during their stay in Germany. With their passion wakened up, and with their motivation flying through the roof, the internship members return home to face surroundings repulsive to improvement suggestions, and governing systems that develop so slow that at times it seems they are moving backwards. The real sector is confused on how to utilize these new skills and learn from the alumni valuable experience. It is curious to see how the same person can be a productive member in one society, and then put back home he/she is a just a tool that gets buried in a wooden casket. We all need to ask ourselves why this happens, and agree on solutions to this problems soon.

You have spent past six years doing your PhD at Washington State University. How that experience looked like?

Fig 10There is no reason to sugar coat the answers about the doctoral degrees… That experience is pretty well depicted at PhD Comics, and is something that majority of students experience when they decide to do their doctorates. You will start with high level of enthusiasm and dream about changing the World with the meaningful work you do, ending up being happy whenever you have chance to snatch a slice of free pizza. You experience new life where 24/7 is not enough to get where you are expected to get, your brain is churning even when you eat, sleep, brush your teeth, you pretty much walk your path in solitude, and don’t expect to have a break/vacation since that is something highly frown upon. Nevertheless, I believe USA is still the best place for doing research and experimental work because of the numerous available funding options, well equipped lab, easiness of collaboration with the preeminent researchers in any field. Washington State University is one of the best in the world in biofuels research, agriculture, veterinary medicine, public health, chemical engineering, etc. I had the opportunity to hands-on use, occasionally repair, an army of analytical chemistry instruments and equipment, build reactors, part-take in various projects and developing funding proposals, visit various labs and research institutions, and many more. The possibilities for professional development are endless, and the administration is wonderful. I also traveled and visited many places in the US thanks to the Fulbright fellowship and few of the professional conferences I attended. Though, if thinking on taking on the PhD challenge, you should forget about work/life balance! Anyways, it is a highly valuable experience, it helped me grow, and experience multiple perspectives of life and thought, multiple cultures, and I am grateful I was given a chance to study, work and live in the US!

Fig 5The picturesque cost of California along the famous U.S. Route 101, CA
Fig 4At the Golden Gate, San Francisco, CA


Tell us more about your PhD thesis.

Fig 8The work I did during my doctorate helped unravel the composition of certain non-volatile portion of one specific type of renewable fuel, called fast pyrolysis oil. In addition, I developed simplified representation for this complex mixture of volatile and non-volatile organic compounds, and further improved upon the understanding on how this bio-oils behave during refining/down-stream processing. So, what is fast pyrolysis oil and why is it important? Fast pyrolysis oils are seen as most viable renewable sources for production of fuels and chemicals in the near future, and they could supplement significant portion of the crude fossil oil in the production of the future green gasoline, diesel, jet-fuel and chemicals. And how do we produce fast pyrolysis oil? When you vaporize small particles of household, municipal, agricultural or forestry organic waste by heating them fast to 450-550°C in absence of oxygen, and then condense those vapors, you can obtain 60-70% of crude-oil-like dark black liquid. Determination of the accurate composition of these pyrolysis oils has given many researchers and engineers a lot of headaches. Although today we do not have commercial production of the green transportation-fuels out of fast pyrolysis oils, many of the laboratories have proven that we can get 50% usable transportation fuels out of this crude fast pyrolysis oil, or ~300g of drop-in fuel from a kilogram of waste! As previously hinted, the progress on pyrolysis oil utilization has been impeded by the lack of understanding of their complex composition, as well as their behavior during refining, which are the fields of research in which I was pushing the frontier of knowledge for the past six years. You can find more about my work at Google ScholarResearch GateAcademia and LinkedIn.

Fig 9At Kennedy Space Center with fellow Fulbright Science&Technology scholars part of our annual conferences

You have been a holder of several scholarship programs. Why you think it is important for young people to take their chances and apply for scholarships and student exchanges?

Globalization is an inevitable process, and it requires from us to develop sensitivity about the cultures of this World. It is all about improving mutual communication, understanding, and building trust and consensus when going about solving the main challenges of the human kind. To get to this point, I believe, it is not just enough to read the Wiki page of the country of interest, but roll your sleeves and get to know the core of people’s values, believes, customs, what they expect from you in every interaction, how they view the World, what bothers them and what makes them happy. It is of utmost importance for every young man to not only visit, but live and fully integrate in a different society, whether that is the one of the closest neighboring countries, the EU countries, up to the Middle and far East, Central Asia, Latin and North America. Scholarship programs and student exchanges are reflection of our social agreement that this kind of exchange is important and of value to help humankind solve global problems together. Oftentimes the only viable way someone can offset the costs of moving to and leaving in another country is through publicly or privately sponsored scholarship programs. I highly encourage every young person to go and see if they can find a good match for their interest within the scholarship programs I have utilized (ProfellowFulbrightn+iDAADBayhostResearch-in-Germany), or extend their search. A scholarship program may be a starting point for bringing enrichment and positive transformation in your life.

Fig 3Presentation of Indonesian clothes in Pullman, WA. (second from left ?


Fig 7Picnic with friends and visiting one of the many USA National Parks, Palouse Falls, WA

Zoran Djindjic Internship Programme of German Business. What it means to you?

Zoran Djindjic Internship Program as known in Serbia, and the Internship Program of German Business as known in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia has a special place in my heart. It was the first program which gave me the opportunity to live and work abroad, hone my professional skills, learn about the German culture, way of life and doing business, and most importantly, it opened my mind to different cultures and worldviews. I allowed me to built strong, and long-lasting relationship with my fellows from the other Balkan countries. This program gave me solid foundation and a reference for all my next endeavors, and I am very thankful for that!

At the end, I ask anyone intrigued by the benefits of this program to submit their application package, and make their first little steps towards enriching and positively changing their own lives. I am open to help with questions about this and all the other fellowships I have been part of. Feel free to contact me.

Filip, Generation 2007