After her PhD in analytical chemistry, Martine Van Poppel joined VITO in 1999, in the former Vehicle Techniques team. The team’s mission: research on vehicle emissions and evaluation of clean technology, i.e. techniques which improve the air quality. Now, twenty years later, air quality is still up Martine’s alley, while the topic is hotter than ever.

“Prominently more attention has been paid to air quality in recent years. Over the past twenty years I have seen how measurement parameters and techniques have significantly evolved, which makes this topic more relevant than ever and also keeps it extremely interesting for me as a researcher”, says Martine.

Focus on air quality

Martine: “I started working at the HEALTH unit in 2005 doing research in the field of air quality. With a team of about twenty people, we deal with all aspects related to air quality measurements. I am mainly involved in urban air quality, mobile measurements, personal exposure and wood burning projects. We also evaluate the operation and quality of air quality sensors and look at how we can put these new technologies to good use. With our research and the results of that research, we give the government and companies the tools to monitor and improve the air quality.”

Social relevance

 “I have always had it in me to contribute to a more sustainable and better environment. That is why, after my PhD, I started looking for a socially relevant job that would allow me to do just that. It will be no surprise to hear that I have been doing this job with my heart and soul for twenty years now.” (laughs)

“As a society, we are much more aware of how important the quality of our air is. It is extremely gratifying for a researcher to realise that, thanks to the insights and applications gained, the air quality is effectively improving,” says Martine. 

Experience pays off

Martine: “For a scientist, VITO is of course an interesting employer in itself. It gives you the chance to focus. At the same time, the larger-scale projects ensure that you also regularly work together with colleagues from other units. Different disciplines that come together, very interesting!”

“VITO definitely gives you all the challenge you need. The longer you work here, the greater your responsibility will be and you will, for example, also have the opportunity to coach young people and to help them make strategic choices.

Racing bike

Martine comes from Arendonk but now lives in Olmen, 13 kilometres from her workplace. Martine: “After my PhD, I made the conscious choice to live near my place of work. I'm happy I did, because I never get stuck in traffic. I try to cycle to work twice a week. I just love it. Sport is definitely in VITO’s genes anyway. For example, some colleagues and I regularly go jogging during the lunch break. Others go for a walk or sit down at the Nuclea Sports Club. The first week of June we also participated in the 1000 km of the cancer charity 1000 km van Kom Op Tegen Kanker: the chance to support a good cause while also challenging myself. Just lovely!”​


Martine: “The first twenty years have passed so quickly. Thanks to a job with a lot of variety but also thanks to the great atmosphere among colleagues here. We can rely on each other on the work floor, that’s just part of the deal. Besides working together, we also organise fun team activities a few times a year, like cooking together or having a barbecue. Our team recently moved from an older building on the main site to a brand-new, energy-neutral building on another site. Such a move is quite a challenge, but we are very excited about it all, it keeps us on our toes and it keeps us going. My future? Well, you’ve heard it, I hope that I will be able to work here for a long time and continue to grow with our team.”