Dr Vesna Najdanovic

"As a child I was surrounded by family members who were mostly law and medicine graduates. Therefore, it was somewhat expected from me to follow one of these paths. However, my early interests were different – I enjoyed building things and making things work."

Vesna's background

"My favourite subjects at school were mathematics and chemistry. Thrill for solving problems and understanding how matter and molecules function were very challenging for me. It was my heartfelt decision to select the course on Chemical Engineering although I was advised that engineering is not really for a girl.

"After obtaining a degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Belgrade, I worked in the Serbian Oil company for two years in the country of my origin. Later, I moved to Portugal for doctoral studies in the area of Chemical Thermodynamics. After obtaining my PhD degree, I remained working in Portugal in the area of Green Chemistry and sustainable technologies."

The project

"Since 2013, I have been a Faculty Fellow at Lancaster University's Engineering Department. My research is mainly focused on the waste biomass and carbon dioxide conversion to biofuels, chemicals and bio-based materials. It addresses two twenty-first century grand challenges:

  • transition to more sustainable manufacturing processes that efficiently use raw materials, eliminate waste and avoid the use of toxic and hazardous materials.
  • climate change mitigation. 

"My recent projects involve production of biodiesel from spent coffee grounds, recovery of valuable components from waste fermentation broth, extraction of antioxidants from olive stones and various plants as well as conversion of carbon dioxide into polycarbonates. In addition to performing exiting research, I enjoy my teaching at the University, as it allows me to transmit to students my enthusiasm for chemical engineering disciplines. 

"In my up-to-date career, I have never regretted my decision, feeling very satisfied with being a Chemical Engineer. It is a path that has brought about so many opportunities, including traveling around the world and collaborating with people from diverse backgrounds. Therefore, I heartily recommend engineering as a career choice for anyone who enjoys STEM subjects and likes to solve problems. Being a female engineer doesn't mean I need to stop wearing skirts, dresses and makeup, or cooking and caring for my family."