Wageningen University – Unilever – Wageningen University – Unilever: that is the route that Pieter Overdevest took before he started his current function as team leader at Unilever Research and development in Vlaardingen. After a stimulating study time in Wageningen and an interesting internship with Unilever he decided to obtain his PhD at Wageningen University. ‘Discovering, freedom, development and organising’ were key words for Pieter to decide to get his PhD in bioprocess technology: “It was – and still is – fantastic to take the time to really figure something out.” After he got his PhD he went back to his former internship-employee, where he is still very happy.
“I started my studies in Wageningen with the study programme molecular sciences, because I liked the atmosphere there. During my studies the study programme bioprocess technology was started up. That really interested me more than molecular sciences. Not only because of the broader scale – from molecule to factory – but also because of the use of mathematical models, that give you insight into processes on different scales. Therefore, I graduated in process technology.” It was for that reason that Pieter accepted a PhD position.
During his PhD Pieter researched methods of purification of medicines and aromatic compounds. “In nature, many substances exist in so-called enantiomers. A well known example is lactic acid; it has a D- and an L-isomer. These isomers are mirror images of each other, like your right- and left hand.” The PhD-student researched a separation process based on filtration to separate functional isomers in medicines from non-functional isomers. He explains why this is of great importance: “Medicines have to be very specific and should not contain any other isomers than the functional isomer. If they do, it could make the medication less effective or cause side effects.”
Pieter is very happy in his current job: “My motivation for becoming a PhD student was the possibility to search for explanations, travel, personal development and freedom. I also find these aspects at Unilever. Besides that, there are many possibilities to switch to different functions. I have done that several times, without needing to change my employer. That is why Unilever is the perfect employer for me!”