Nikola Kanas

Nikola Kanas is a PhD candidate at the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at NTNU. His research is in Ceramic processing of thermoelectric materials. He belongs to the Inorganic Materials and Ceramics Research Group.

Nikola is from Kikinda, Serbia and came to NTNU in August 2014 for his PhD research. He has a master's degree in material science and engineering from the University of Novi Sad, Serbia.

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PhD progress is like the weather in Norway – unpredictable
  30 May, 2016


I am enjoying my PhD work, but there are many challenges to handle on the way. Photo: Per Henning/NTNU

After a long time without writing any posts, I am still here, ready for some new words. Last time I mentioned that I would say something about scientific life. I am at the same place, in the same conditions, surrounded with new scientific challenges, which currently stops me from writing my paper.

I would like to introduce PhD candidates’ most common opponent before the official defense and its name is time, which runs so fast that you cannot keep up. To me, it seems like the amount of work increases with time while challenges remain in spite of good progress. I am very sure that most of you immediately got the point why I have not written any posts since last summer. I am not trying to justify myself, but that is reality. Anyways, I think it will be useful (at least for some of you) to have an overview of PhD life and activities at NTNU Trondheim after more than one and a half years from the start (middle of the PhD programme).

The first thing that came to my mind when I passed the last exam was that I will have more time for myself and my research, which will exponentially influence the development of my PhD work. This is logical, it makes sense, but now I see that logic does not work all the time.

It takes a lot of time

Mostly, this looks like sine and cosine functions, which goes up and down. I can say for myself that things are going more or less ok, but not with the same acceleration as I was expecting. Now I see that PhD progress is unpredictable and it is good to be aware of this before starting. Sometimes things do not look so difficult, but it takes a lot of time, and sometimes huge issues can be solved quickly, sometimes by picking up a new idea after an unintentional mistake which was made during an experiment. As one of my colleagues always says: “You never know why it is good”.

Bad results are also good results

Each time you don’t succeed with an experiment, and struggle for a long time, think twice before getting upset, because “bad” results are actually “good”. This is the chance to figure out something new, maybe to discover a new phenomenon, or to realize a “missing element” in your knowledge. Since PhD work is a learning process, like everything else in life, a positive attitude and good ideas followed by a proper plan will usually give good output sooner or later. My motto is: keep on going, be patient and keep it positive.


Here I am in the lab preparing for one of my experiments. Photo: Per Henning/NTNU


Exciting research

My research topic is based on thermoelectric materials, which is part of the national project called Thelma. Thermoelectric materials are able to transform heat into electricity and vice versa. The project is based on nano-structuring for improving the energy efficiency of thermoelectric generators and heat-pumps, where my aim of work is focused on studies on developing technology for new generators for commercialization. This project is interesting and in spite of many challenges and tough goals, we still have good fun.

Besides the Thelma project, there are many other amusing projects where other colleagues are working. Some of these are related to batteries, solid oxide fuel cells, biomaterials, piezoelectric, etc. As far as I know, several new colleagues will start soon as new PhD and post-doc. positions will be available.
Currently, I am waiting for June when I will visit the summer school in Limoges (France), then a conference on a cruise through the northern part of Norway, which will probably be exciting. The plan is also to go somewhere on an internship by the end of the year. Next time I write, you will find out more about it.

Best regards

Ready for holidays and then the next semester
  3 July, 2015

My respect to all of you who want to know more about PhD life here at NTNU and also to the people who have already followed my previous blog posts. Since I haven’t written any posts since New Year, I feel that this is a good time for a new report, now that the holiday period is starting.

After the first semester, I passed both exams. In the second semester, most of us had only one course. That was a chance for me to have more time for laboratory work and to make new results which is of course my main goal. I think most of us like these times when we are wearing our lab coats with a smile on our faces going to the lab, instead of sitting and preparing a new …n+1 exam. But to be honest, after passing all the exams, I am feeling a little bit “stronger” and the best part is when I can apply some new theoretical knowledge in practice.

Last exam was in May, and most of us passed. From that moment until summer vacation, which is starting for me in the middle of July, I will work 100% on research. Beside exams, lab work, weekly meetings and other everyday duties, we have meetings every few months with people from other Universities who are working on the same project that we are. Usually these meetings are in Oslo, and during these events, we are presenting recent results, sharing experiences and solving issues if someone has any. We are observing the development and progress of our work and it is very enjoyable.

Currently, people are slowly starting to go on holidays and since bachelor and master students have already gone home, the building is becoming so quiet. We are also excited to go on holidays and we are talking about our plans for the summer and maybe starting to be not so efficient like we were only one week earlier. Since we are a quite big department, booking of equipment is required and this can sometimes be a problem if you are in a hurry. But now that all the equipment is available, it is not so tricky to book the furnace or other instruments. This helps a great deal and gives me more pleasure working in the lab.


Besides work, we are spending time hiking and chilling out in nature together. Probably everybody knows that the nature in Norway is fabulous and it would be a pity if we do not utilize this opportunity, especially now that the days are so much longer than in the winter.

In my next blog post, I will write more about the scientific research part and everything related to it.

Have a nice summer and best regards.


It feels great to have access to the lab
  19 December, 2014


On this picture, I am measuring the weight of a substance for my powder synthesis

As promised, here I am writing more about my PhD research and life in Trondheim. Finally, I have access to the lab and I have done some interesting research. I also have a better grip of what Trondheim is like.

My work is focused on designing and processing thermoelectric materials (materials with free electrons or holes which carry both charge and heat). These materials will be used for harvesting waste heat, working towards green technology.

Now, I have been here for four months, and almost three months have passed since my first blog post. My life here is much easier, now that I know almost all the people in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and I am spending a lot of time with my new friends.

Rain and darkness
Everything is going well. I am especially happy with the conditions at work and enviroment. First it was difficult to handle the rain in Trondheim, and now the winter with the darkness. You have sun just a few hours per day, but you can also find some advantages in this. By the way, I expected much colder weather. However, I have realized now that there is not a big difference between the winter in Serbia and here (maybe for now). We will see later on.

Usually, our PhD working day consists of lab work and extracting data from measurements, preparing presentations for the weekly meetings and lecturing with exercises and some projects. So, there is a lot of work and if you want to be successful, it’s really important that you make a good and well planned schedule of your duties.

Here, I am using using rotavapor, used for efficient and gentle removal of solvents from samples by evaporation.

Here I am, using rotavapor (used for efficient and gentle removal of solvents from samples by evaporation)


Great help from colleagues and professors
But it is not only about making a good schedule. Sometimes, stuff can get out of control, for instance in experiments. It happens that after a few lab trials, results are not satisfying, and you don’t have any idea how to solve the problem. This is normal in the science world, and it is very good that PhD students here can present their scientific “problems” in the weekly meetings where other colleagues and professors can assist you. It really helps a lot. For example, during the synthesis, there are many tricks involved in getting the required solution. So in my case, I had some doubts and my colleagues gave my ideas on how to solve the problem, and from that point on, my research went well.

Generally, everything is fine, and the dynamics will probably improve even more after the Christmas holiday. Examination period is over and most of us will turn back to our hometowns. We had two exams to pass and it seems that everything went ok.

My next blog post will be after New Year’s, so best wishes to you in the holidays and if you are trying to find a good University for your PhD, I can recommend NTNU and Trondheim.



Coming to Trondheim for my PhD
  28 August, 2014


My name is Nikola and I am a new PhD candidate at NTNU. I am from Kikinda, a small town in Serbia and I finished my bachelor and master studies at the University of Novi Sad, also in Serbia. I heard about Trondheim from my friends who have already been here and they shared their experiences with me. I was looking for an interesting PhD position on a project that would be relevant for me, and when I found one, I contacted the Professor who is the head of the project. I was really happy to receive the news that I had been the chosen one. I was also lucky with accommodation, because it can be a problem sometimes. I was able to take over my friend’s apartment.

I arrived in Trondheim on the 11th of August. My first impression was that Trondheim is a really nice city with beautiful nature, fresh air, also with good weather, but it was only the first few days. Now, I can see that it is usually rainy, but I will settle with any weather. Everything else seems nice. People are kind and they always seem to have time for you. Food is good, and I prefer fish. I am really happy because of everything here.

It was a great pleasure to meet my colleagues. I share the office with two more PhD candidates, Susanne and Espen. Including me, several PhD students started at the same time. My supervisor is Mari-Ann Einarsrud and I have great collaboration with her. We start the day around 8 am and finish around 4 pm. Currently, I am reading literature most of the day and preparing myself for a good scientific start.

I have to take an HSE preparation course before I can use the labs. During September I think I can start with my lab experiments and I am looking forward to that.

I will write some more about my PhD and life in Trondheim in my next blog post.

Best regards,