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Anna Sandak


Early life

I was born in June 1975 in the small town Nowe in northern Poland. It is not so far from the Baltic Sea and in its neighbourhood is the Tuchola Forest, which contains the Tuchola Forest National Park. The area was formed during the last glacial age and is covered with low hills and more than 900 post-glacial lakes. With 3,200 km² of dense spruce and pine forest, the area is one of the biggest forests in Poland and Central Europe. I spent all my childhood there, swimming in lakes in the summers, picking mushrooms in autumn and enjoying beautiful landscape all year long. It not hard to guess, therefore, why I like wood…

Education

After finishing high school, I studied biology in Poznan at the Adam Mickiewicz University. After two years of general program, I selected environmental biology and joined the bird section, the most active for in-field working. I enjoy spending lots of time in observation of birds, and many weeks during summer vacation I joined camps where we watched, counted and ringed birds. It was a great experience and best education ever to recognize all birds’ species while removing them from the net. However, ringing the swans was much more challenging as they are big, fast and furious. While studying biology, I also decided to know a bit more about forestry. In parallel, I enrolled at University of Life Science in Poznan and studied forestry for few years.

Time in Japan

After the fourth year of study, my boyfriend Jakub (known to many of you as Kuba) was granted a Monbusho Scholarship and we decided to move together to Japan. He proposed in the University corridor (very romantic place 😉) and we got married just before he left for Japan. I stayed a few more months in Poland, defended my master’s thesis and joined him in Matsue. The five years in Japan were a big challenge and one of the most enjoyable times. I had to learn very quickly Japanese, English as well as new culture, so different then European. It was a jump into deep water, but I experienced such a different philosophy of life, learned ikebana, tea ceremony, wore kimono and learned to prepare many exotic dishes. I also learned to face all challenges and take any opportunities that life provides. We organized many events to promote Polish culture. With my German friend, we ran a small cake business and even had a cooking program on TV. We also established good friendships with several people from all over the world that survive until now.

Return to Europe

After five years of life in Japan and visiting several countries in Asia, we came back to Europe and my husband Kuba started his post-doc at CNR-IVALSA in northern Italy. At that time, I accomplished two of my life’s most successful “international projects”: our son who was born in Japan and our daughter three years later born in Italy. Having the kids grown up a bit, I started to think about regular work for myself. In 2006, I applied for the project sponsored by a local foundation in Trentino, and in 2007 I started work in the Laboratory of Non-Destructive Testing at CNR-IVALSA. My first project was related to traceability of wood and the main task was to run an FT-NIR spectrometer, which was purchased but not yet explored by anyone. I totally immersed in spectroscopy, a very fascinating and complex technique, and those who know me perhaps remember that I was using it for so many purposes: estimation of chemical composition of wood, biomass and many bio-based materials, evaluation of decay, weathering, waterlogging, ageing, wood modification extent and assessment of cultural heritage objects among others. At that time, I realized that I really love science. I defend my PhD degree in wood science in 2010 and the thesis was entitled: “Studies on application of the Near Infrared Spectroscopy toward determination of Norway spruce wood provenance”. That same year we opened a new Laboratory of Surface Characterization, which I was responsible for until 2018. I still have a lot of sentiment when thinking about our laboratory. I think it was exceptional, many prototypes were designed and built by Kuba and we were running many fascinating experiments there. We were also lucky to work in Dolomite forests, collecting samples from steep terrains and closely collaborating with Trentino’s foresters, who are great!

IRG

I feel very honoured to be invited to share my biography with all of you since I joined IRG relatively late (my first conference was in Lisbon in 2016). I knew many IRG members from several COST meetings and conferences, and now when I think back, I have no idea why I joined so late. However, better late than never (thanks Lone for accepting me that time!). Nevertheless, the contacts I made during my first conference were very fruitful as at that time one of my projects (BIO4ever) was on-going and I tested several bio-based materials provided by IRG members. I also felt from the first moment being part of the wood protection family that is unique and exceptional. Honestly, I was searching a lot for some photos from the IRG conferences that I joined, but most of what I have are the pictures of presentations that I took for future research inspirations … and one blurry photo of the IRG50 excursion party, meaning that the party was very good!

Current life

Since 2016, I’m an assistant professor and research associate at the Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies at the University of Primorska. In 2017, InnoRenew CoE was funded and we were invited to join the team from the very beginning. Having the work duties and BIO4ever project concluding in Italy, I was consulting research directions for the first months. In September 2018, we closed the Italian chapter of our life (after 14 years of living in Trento province) and with all my family we moved to Izola in Slovenia
At InnoRenew CoE, we are a very international team, coming from 15 countries, speaking in over 20 languages and continuously growing (we are 60 now). I’m coordinating the group of wood modification where we develop new methods for wood protection and enhancement. My activities are diverse, including research and development, communication and management. We are a very interdisciplinary team, researching wood modification at several levels: from molecular dynamics, multi-scale modelling and characterisation to industrial application and knowledge transfer. Since I’m a biologist, my passion is to search for biomimetic solutions for design of new materials. I try to follow Einstein’s suggestion: “look deep into nature and you will understand everything.”

Extracurricula activities

In my free time (honestly, I don’t have it much), I like to read books (especially Scandinavian crimes), cooking (after living in different places our kitchen is really “fusion”) and make mosaics from spare parts of ceramics (re-use is a great idea)!