Super special edition: Interview with Bart for blog’s 4th birthday!

To mark the blog’s fourth birthday, Dr. Birke Götz interviews Bart Denoulet about how his life has changed in retirement and how he feels about the blog four years in the running.

When we started out the blog, we were unsure how well it will do, if it will be interesting for you readers and if there would be enough drive to keep us going forward. As we enter the fourth year of the blog, I cannot be any prouder of what we have achieved here. From starting out with chromatography, to introducing freeze drying and later on evaporation, we have managed to keep the blog colourful and informative. It has been such a pleasure for me to write post after post and I sincerely hope it has been equally pleasant (and useful) for you to read.

If you have been following us from the start, you are probably aware that I retired last year, but remained committed to running the blog. One of my dear former colleagues, Dr. Birke Götz, Product Manager Purification at BUCHI Labortechnik, approached me with the idea to do a little Q&A about how my life has changed since retirement and how I feel about the blog to mark the blog’s birthday.

I agreed it is a perfect opportunity to give the science a slight pause and offer you a glimpse behind the scientist. We might love the lab, the techniques and we might be happy to discuss experiments day after day, but we are all people too. So, I happily agreed for her to interview me. And below is the result:

Birke: What does a typical day look like for you?
Bart: Typical is nothing is typical!
The main difference is the day shifted in time from 6-22h to 7:30-23:30. Besides that there is no fixed plan for the week: anything is possible.
As I’m substantially more at home compared to the past there is much more time for family contact (kids, grandkids, brothers & sisters, etc). In fact this reflects in the blog, as I just wrote about family gatherings in my last blog post.
A few activities which come back regularly are: hiking, biking, photography, family tree search… But nothing in a fixed time frame.

Birke: What do you miss the most about work life?
Bart: That’s an easy one: the contact with people!
Due to the big distance between Belgium and Switzerland, it’s not easy to have regular face to face contact. Fortunately, there are enough electronic means these days to stay connected (WhatsApp, Facebook, email, Teams video chat, etc). I still have regular contact with various people at BUCHI, but also with people from my previous time at Grace and Alltech. Some of these contacts date back more than 30 years.

Birke: What do you enjoy most about being retired?
Bart: The absolute freedom to use your time like you want. Since the first day I retired I stopped wearing a watch.
Lunch at 2pm? No problem. Read a book in the middle of the afternoon? Who cares. Not finished with the garden today? Tomorrow is another day.
It’s a big relief to live without time pressure and tough deadlines. The switch from constantly planning for the future to living from day to day is great.

Birke: How do you still stay connected to science?
Bart: One cannot just turn off a decades-long interest in science from one day to the other. There is even no reason for me to do this.
There are so many electronic means available which make it fairly easy to follow what’s going on in the scientific world. I’m linked to various panels on the internet about (bio) chromatography (including flash of course), organic chemistry, pharma chemistry, evaporation, freeze drying, etc.
And of course, there are the regular posts for Bart’s Blog. These keep me on top of specific topics.

Birke: How do you feel about the blog 4 years on?
Bart: Setting up a blog is not that easy. It requires careful planning and consistency in order to deliver attractive posts on a regular base. It is also risky what the return will be of the work put into this. So, it was very nice to notice that the interest in the blog has increased year after year. It’s great to see the time and effort put into the Blog over the years are paying off.
It’s encouraging to hear people like the way the posts are written. Very motivating!

Birke: What are some of your favourite posts?
Bart: Oh, that’s not an easy one as there are so many interesting topics. I can try to pick a few though.
I have a bit of a special connection with ELSD detection. I first encountered this detection technique in the late 80s (yes in the 20th century!). At that time, it was rarely used in most labs. I was involved in the introduction of this detector in analytical labs first and later on also in purification labs.
So, the blog posts about ELSD have a bit a special meaning to me:

How to overcome limitations in flash chromatography with ELSD

All about ELS detectors

Another favourite post is: Rotary Evaporation vs Freeze Drying in protein concentration.

It’s a favourite for various reasons:
BUCHI has a special connection to rotary evaporation for obvious reasons. It is virtually impossible not to have an interest in this technique when working for this great company!
Peptides and proteins have become increasingly important in biochromatography and biopharma. Proteins and peptides allow to gear for the future and hopefully help to overcome challenges that we face today.
Freeze drying is a versatile technique and the gentle conditions used are beneficial for many of these bio compounds.

Birke: Are you recognized on the streets?
Bart: Ha, ha, ha. The blog is successful in a small part of the scientific world, but in the outside ‘normal’ world very little people know about this blog. So no problem at all to wander around on the streets. I do have some fans and I do love receiving questions in the Comments section, as it keeps me in direct touch with readers .

Birke: What is planned for the blog in 2022?
Bart: Well, as in the past years, the blog will contain a mixture of various subjects. Of course, my old and eternal love Chromatography will be further explored. Also, some traditional subjects like rotary evaporation or old favourites like freeze drying will appear in the posts. And for sure there needs to be space for new subjects. What these will be are kept as a surprise for later in the year.
We will continue to find a good balance between application-based and know-how topics.
In short: stay tuned for the most exciting year of the blog yet.

Birke: Do you have any advice for those heading into retirement?
Bart: Recent personal experiences as well as in my close surroundings have confirmed my long standing motto: ‘Carpe Diem’. Don’t delay what you want to do till later. If later comes early, you will be too late!
Live now!

Birke: What plans do you have for 2022?
Bart: Initially we had the idea to make 2022 a year of travel. Unfortunately, potential plans are still a bit dictated by the Covid-19 situation in Belgium, Europe or even the world. We’ll try to make the best out of it. Switzerland is high on our list.
Another idea is to do some renovation at home. Last year the kitchen got reworked and repainted, this year the hall and stairways are on the plan for some redecoration.
One of the resolutions I had in mind for this year is to re-establish contact with family members I have not seen or spoken for a long time. As both my wife and I have big families, one year will probably not be enough, so we will be making this a multiannual plan.

We hope you enjoyed this personal Q&A with me. If you have any of your own questions, leave them in the comments section below and I will answer you as best as I can!

Till next time,

The Signature of Bart Denoulet at Bart's Blog