Liubov Lukina  is a PhD student at the Department of Materials Engineering at KU Leuven. She is working on the magnetic separation of rare-earth ions, under the supervision of Prof. Jan Fransaer (Dept. of Materials Engineering) and Prof. Koen Binnemans (Chemistry Dept.). She has a MSc degree from Lappeenranta University of Technology (Finland).  (Leuven, 31-5-2018)

 Why did you choose to work in Belgium?

During my Master studies, I worked on the separation of rare earth ions, and I thought it was a very exciting topic. Working in the lab was fun, too! Therefore, upon graduation I started to search for possibilities of a PhD in this area and found options in France, Sweden and Belgium. In Belgium the PhD position was open in the group of Professor Koen Binnemans, whom I already knew by his high-level articles. So I tried to get this position – and now here I am!

What are you working on?

I am trying to separate rare earth metals using magnetic field. How does it work? Rare earths are similar in chemical properties, but very different in physical, namely magnetic properties. Some of them are attracted to the magnet, and some are repelled. Why is it interesting? The magnetic method of separation could become a green substitute for the currently used solvent extraction method. As a researcher, I am performing laboratory work as well as computer simulations.

What attracts you in the research project you are working on?

It’s the mystery behind the magnetic separation process! No one in the world knows exactly what is happening when a solution of rare earth ions enters a magnetic field.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your academic life?

Collaborations are the key.

When are you the happiest?

In the morning, when I hop on my bike to go to work after a good workout and a hearty breakfast.

Liubov_climbingHow do you recharge?

I have been doing rock climbing since I remember myself, so now it’s become a part of me. Climbing gives me motivation, confidence and social contacts. When I climb, I don’t think of anything else, I feel happy, powerful and free. To show off maybe I can add that as of May 2018, I belong to the Top 10 Belgian female climbers.

Bio Liubov Lukina

Liubov Lukina was born in Saint Petersburg (Russia) in 1993. Motivated by a desire to make the world a better place, she completed her undergraduate studies in the field of environmental engineering in the National Mineral Resources University of Saint Petersburg. Switching to the chemical aspect of ecology, Liubov obtained her Master’s degree in chemical engineering from Lappeenranta University of Technology (Finland). During summer internship and Master thesis, she worked on separation of rare earths using a novel bisphosphonate separation material. Her growing interest in lanthanides drove her to apply for a PhD position in the Materials Engineering department of KU Leuven. Right now, Liubov is pursuing the worthy goal of separating rare earth metals by strong magnetic fields.