My name is Ion Popescu, I am 32 years old, and have no sisters or brothers, so I was a spoiled only child. I am born in Bucharest, Romania, where I spent the first 12 years of my life, before I moved to Germany, with my parents in 1990, after the breakdown of the communistic regime. I think this was one of the first highlights in my life (of course with the exception of my birth). However the fist months in Germany were pretty difficult, I came in school, where I did not understand anybody, and nobody understand me (although I did not reach the puberty yet!). Thus, the initial enthusiasm were a little bit damped and now, after so many years, I could even say, that the highlight converted to one of the first low points in my life. Of course, I made it and after I passed the Abitur (the German university entrance qualification), I moved to Aachen, a very charming city not far from the Dutch and Belgium borderline. I started there to study mechanical engineering. After I failed the first two examinations, and I was completely disappointed about myself and I even had doubts (a little bit) if I have the talent, the understanding and the power to make it. This was definitely another low point in my life. I started to learn and to work harder than ever (till today), so I made it. After the 4. Semester I decided for the study specialization of aeronautical engineering. It was great to learn and understand the technical know-how necessary in order to realize one of the oldest dreams of mankind – to be able to fly.
The next, real highlight of my life was a 6 month internship period at XXX France, in the beautiful south-French city Toulouse. It was a very international and multicultural atmosphere, however from the technical point of view not very challenging. At work, in spite of the international and multicultural atmosphere I was constrained to learn French, which was at the end very good for me. Another highlight in the Toulouse period was that I met my wife; we married in 2005 and have a little daughter, of almost 2 years, called Maria.
Besides, all the points already mentioned, the most decisive point for/in my career was the first job in YYYY at a research institute on Composite materials, with very close collaboration to beeep. I worked there as research and scientific assistant, with the goal to get a PhD. It was initially not my plan to go for a PhD. however the economic situation constrained me to do so, since this seemed to me to be the best option. In the first 3 months, every day after work I thought about the option to quit. My chief and Professor had a very laisser-faire leadership style, I had a freedom of research and work which was scary/frightening for me at that time. I tried many times to discuss with my Professor, who was not only my chief, but only the main adviser of my PhD work. I remember his sentence “Ion, it is very hard in life to get the money of other people”. I interpreted this sentence, that it is difficult to convince people. I don’t know if I got the money of all people in this period, but his money and that of many others too. Thus I organized my job by myself (very self), started with a fundamental research project funded by the German research society on the propagation behavior of stress waves in composites. My professor was more a technology manager than a scientific professor. He is also in the top management of YYYY , thus he asked always for application, although I was not the initiator of this project. Somewhere on a conference I heard the first time the magic word “SHM” which was the topic I spent the next 4 years of my professional career. It was not difficult to convince my Professor, that this is the application he/or me?? Was looking for. Nobody at XXXX heard anything about that topic; it was completely new for us, with all the pros and cons. One of the problems was that nobody at XXXX (incl. my chief) could give me any technical advice – this was the cons, but the big pros, was that I could do whatever I liked to do. I created a small team of 3-4 students in the framework of bachelor internship and master students in order learn about this topic. We created a small lab with an experimental set-up (I got immediately the budget for that from my Professor) and an analytical team, including wave simulation based on FEM etc. A big highlight in this period was the speech of an American professor at an SHM Workshop, who really fascinated me. I talked to him and could arrange to spend some time with him in his lab at the University ZZZZ in the US. It was a hard-working period and very inspiring. He even agreed to become my second adviser for my PhD work. Of course, my Professor at YYYY agreed. During this time at YYYY I had also many times the opportunity to do the courses of my chief, to get and apply for funding at EU, LuFo and other regional places. I had meetings with project proposal evaluators and tried of course to get (again!!) their money. Sometimes it even worked!! Last but not least, this 4 years period in beep at YYYY was the period with the greatest impact on my professional development, especially the fact to deal with professional liberty and freedom. A part of my PhD work was even applied for German patent, and accepted. I made first experience to lead people (students in this case). I realized that there is no fixed formula to deal with them. Some student had to be motivated, other ones had to be stopped in their enthusiasm to assure to get results and not to start to much but to finish to less. This 4 years was a continuous highlight in my professional life (of course, but with only very less drawbacks).
Highly motivated and proud of an additional scientific title, I became Dr. Popescu (although my name was long enough already before) in September 2008 I started at XYXYXY, in the department xxx for Design Automation and Optimization. It is the same department in which I did my diploma thesis 4 years ago. I kept contact to the head of the department, who is now head of the main department beep the whole time. After the liberty I had in beeep, of course I felt quite “braked” at the beginning. I started with small “things”, programming of Excel macros and FORTRAN subroutines. But after 6 months I became responsible for two technology projects on composite structural design, although small (80 kE year budget), I was project manager. Wow! Later I become responsible for all work packages of Structural biiiiiip. Regular highlights are the project reviews with the technology and innovation management. During the preparation of each review I think about the wise words of my PhD father: Ion, remember, It is hard to get the money of other people.
When I don’t think about composite, about getting other people’s money, I love to play the guitar, to make sports (specially jogging, since it is one of the most efficient sport, when you do not have much time), and to cook (I start this in France, when in our student hostel every body had to cook one time a week for the others). But right now, I have to convince my daughter to let me do that. Believe me, this is sometimes much harder than to convince in the professional life, so it is very difficult “to get her money”.
As career goal I would say: I would like to get into a position in which I reach my personal incompetence at the highest level and to get the money of other people.
Finally I can say in the past I learned very much about very less, in the future it would love to learn very less but about very much.
Last but not least: you asked about an object which represents me: Hmmm…I brought an airplane. But I do not know in how far this represents me. I simply like it. I like the way it combines many different requirements and many different disciplines. It is a very harmonic thing, and this is one of the main reasons, it works and it is able to realize one of the oldest dream of mankind – the ability to fly.