15 Apr, 2021 6:56 AM / by Cherie Poon
At Environmental Solutions Asia, we believe it is our people that drive the company. As such, we want to uncover the stories behind them as individuals pursuing their passions. Stick around as we chat with our fellow green champions and get to know the colleagues we work alongside each day.
To start off this series, we introduce our Green Chemist, Nicholas Loo.
Our Green ChemistNicholas Loo… Nicholas who?
Image Source: Environmental Solutions Asia — Introducing our Green Chemist, Nicholas Loo
If he’s not stationed at the workbench or tucked away at fume hoods designing experiments, you can probably find him buried at his desk processing data. It is not hard to identify Nicholas Loo, one of our dedicated Green Chemists, working hard at our proprietary lab within Environmental Solutions Asia.
Nicholas, or Nick as we call him, spearheads chemical recovery operations of waste generated from our Sludge Thermal Processing services. He develops methods for the purification of waste sludges and metal-bearing dusts to repurpose them into useful products.
These are no easy tasks, but it is Nick’s love for chemistry and research that keep him going.
“It feels like solving a puzzle to me. For example, finding certain reaction conditions that enable you to get a specific compound, or figuring what functional groups I can add together to make a desired molecule,” says Nick, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the National University of Singapore.
He joined the company at the end of 2020 as he saw many opportunities for research. “You could say I’m a philo-sopher, a lover of knowledge,” Nick explains. “I was drawn to this new area of research which aligns with my passion for environmental technologies.”
Image Source: Environmental Solutions Asia — Nick preparing for vacuum filtration
Nick, who worked as a research assistant after attaining his Bachelors, went on to pursue a postgraduate programme at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. While he eventually left the programme, the knowledge gleaned from harvesting renewable energy sources and creating zero-carbon cycles had only deepened his passion for sustainable solutions.
He inspires us with his steadfast attitude and humility that he channels to the lab each day. “He’s generally very optimistic, organised and focused. He multi-tasks really well and never gets stressed.” Ash, another of our fellow chemists, praises Nick for the value he brings to the chemistry team. “He knows how to take it easy, yet he’s always very keen to help around and impart knowledge.”
Beyond his seriousness, Nick is also known for his youthful exuberance. He jokes about getting excited when he purifies Palladium from waste, “I like to think that we’re literally making money in this lab.”
Pursuing a Career in Chemistry
For Nick, making a living out of chemistry needs to dovetail with his appreciation for tangible results and products. “I enjoy being at the forefront of developing new technologies, creating new solutions for foreseeable issues, and ultimately making an impact on society in a positive manner,” Nick reflects with a subtle sense of conviction. “In contrast to academia where it seems more about chasing prestigious journal publications, I find the work here more interesting and engaging.”
Image Source: Environmental Solutions Asia — Nick preparing a solution for titration
Yet, as with all companies, the nature of work at ESA comes with its set of challenges and opportunities. To navigate these, Nick candidly emphasises the importance of making do with the little we have to make experiments work. “Coming here was an eye opener. I would assume facilities in an MNC would be more attractive for research, but ESA is also young and that leaves room for much growth. In some respect, I would like to contribute to that.”
A Deeper Calling
When asked about what motivates him to get through work each day, he shares solemnly about the faith that he holds dear. “God keeps me going. I think that when you’ve found someone or something other than oneself to work for, it serves as a stronger motivator for work than anything else.”
While many choose to keep religion at bay, Nick advocates challenging the divorce between science and faith. He believes that faith can bring virtues that add value to a workplace.
“Honestly, I couldn’t care less for worldly titles or achievements. I’m just a give-it-your-best kind of person, for the glory of God, and if not for that, then out of respect for my self-dignity.”
Lessons from a Chemist
Despite being only 29, his rich experiences have decorated his youth with wisdom and maturity. He foresees himself continuing in his profession, and hopes that the industry can learn to see work as a service — an endeavour where there is more in giving than in receiving.
“I hope the stigma of working in waste management can be removed and that every honest job can be seen as noble. I hope that genuine care for the environment can form the main pull for why we do what we do.”
He readily offers advice to those who want to follow in his footsteps.
“Discern what gives you meaning in life, and remain grounded in them. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and make mistakes. Always be open to learn. There is no age at which learning should stop.”
Find out more about our people here.
Written by Cherie Poon