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2023. 08. 25 -

A brilliant scientist who brought Western culture: colleagues' memories of Dr. Svajus Asadauskas

Dr. Svajus Asadauskas (1967-2023). Photo from personal archive
Today, 25 August, Dr. Svajus Asadauskas, a chemist-engineer, would have turned 56. One of Lithuania's most renowned tribologists, a researcher who left his mark on the world of science, and an active member of FTMC community, he passed away on 3 July this year.
Svajus was born in Prienai, Lithuania, on 25 August 1967. He studied chemical technology at Kaunas Polytechnic Institute (KPI, now Kaunas University of Technology) and chemistry in Washington State (USA). During his studies, he actively participated in the activities of the KPI Sąjūdis initiative group. In 1993, he went to Pennsylvania State University (USA) to study for a PhD in chemical engineering, where he received his PhD in 1997.
For three years, Asadauskas worked for the US Department of Agriculture, where he was invited to study how to replace petroleum with vegetable oils in the production of lubricants. Asadauskas later exchanged his civil service for a job with the German company Fuchs Lubricants in the USA, where he worked for eight years. In 2008, he returned to Lithuania, to the then Institute of Chemistry, Department of Materials Science and Corrosion Research, where he successfully established the Tribology Group.
On the day of Svajus' birth, FTMC scientists share their memories of their beloved friend and colleague.
(Dr. Svajus Asadauskas. Photo from personal Facebook account)
Dr. Linas Vilčiauskas, Head of Department of Chemical Engineering and Technology
On 25 August this year, our colleague and friend Dr. Svajus Asadauskas would have turned 56. However, the unexpected news on 18 January this year and the long months of waiting and hope that followed not only devastated his loved ones, but also had a profound impact on the life of FTMC community.
I had already heard about Svajus and his return to Lithuania and the then Institute of Chemistry from the press in 2007, but I did not meet him in person for the first time until the end of 2017, when I started working at FTMC. One day, when he dropped by my office and introduced himself, it was immediately clear that we would have many topics and interests in common, both professionally and personally. It was immediately obvious that Svajus stood out for his proactivity, his quick-eye and the many ideas he had in his head. This has always helped him a lot, especially in his project work and in his dealings with businesses.
On a personal level, it was always easy for Svajus and I to find a variety of common topics for conversations and discussions, which not only covered science, but often strayed into other areas of life: from beer and gardening to American football and the peculiarities of politics... We always summed up the week's events with the traditional Friday lunch at the restaurant Kino Studija.
The loss of Svajus, as a friend, colleague, a great chemical engineer, is a huge loss, both personally and for FTMC community. Rest in peace, Svajus!
Dr. Asta Grigucevičienė, Department of Electrochemical Materials Science
It is extremely sad that we have lost our colleague and friend so early.
I met Svajus in 2007 when he returned from the United States under the Marie Curie Programme. After completing his PhD at Pennsylvania State University and gaining experience at Fuchs Lubricants, a multinational lubricants company, he founded the Tribology Group at the Institute of Chemistry (later FTMC) with great enthusiasm and drive, and I was able to work there for a few years.
Svajus was undoubtedly creative, curious and not afraid of challenges. He would take on tasks that at first glance seemed extremely difficult and impossible, but he always persevered and enthusiastically pursued his goal.
Svajus was an exceptional chemist with a broad scientific profile that included lubricants, oils, fuels, adhesives, plasticisers and other industrial fluids derived from recycled raw materials. He encouraged collaboration with tribology specialists in Lithuania and actively supported research in this field, making Lithuania an attractive research destination. Svajus also worked closely with business partners, especially rubber recyclers, to contribute to a more sustainable environment through its scientific discoveries.
He has worked on major international projects with foreign partners. His involvement in project activities was very pronounced: he was enthusiastic about taking part in discussions, proposing ideas and finding innovative approaches to achieve objectives. Svajus left unfulfilled dreams and projects, but his contribution to science and the community will not be forgotten.
Peace be with you, my colleague, my friend Svajus. Your work and spirit will live on in our memories.
(Dr. Svajus Asadauskas. A screenshot from video)
Dr. Giedrius Stalnionis, Department of Characterisation of Materials Structure
Today it is still very difficult to gather words and speak in the present tense about Svajus. I had a friendly relationship with him from the first day he came back to Lithuania from the USA. Every weekday morning we used to meet for a cup of tea and discuss everything from A to Z.
On the morning of 17 January, after having tea, he said goodbye and "see you tomorrow", and the usual "tomorrow" was no more.
It is very sad that we have lost a very friendly, energetic, always in a good mood, always on time, always finding solutions in the most difficult situations, very loving to his children and his family, a true Friend. That is how he will remain in our memory.
Dr. habil. Rimantas Ramanauskas, Department of Chemical Engineering and Technology
What kind of Svajus I knew and what impressed me:
Communicativeness. First of all, I will remember Svajus as a very communicative person. I remember the first Christmas party at the Institute of Chemistry, where a colleague who had recently returned from the USA and had joined the new team attended for the first time. The relaxed, cheerful and immediate communication, especially with women colleagues, was clearly part of the "cultural heritage" that Svajus had acquired abroad, which set him apart from the rest. His culture of communication, whether he talked with a high-ranking government official or a colleague, enabled him to adapt quickly to his new team and to achieve high professional results in a relatively short time.
(Dr. Svajus Asadauskas. Photo from personal Facebook account)
Competence. Svajus was a man of very broad erudition and his competences in chemistry covered a very wide range of areas. In particular, he was a pioneer in tribology at the former Institute of Chemistry (later FTMC). Polymer chemistry and organic chemistry were areas in which his knowledge was particularly strong.
However, this did not prevent him from delving into other scientific problems. As the Department of Electrochemical Materials Science, where he worked, dealt with corrosion of metals, he initiated research on corrosion in biofuel medium. Aware of the extensive experience of his colleagues in the field of aluminium anodising, he initiated and successfully developed research on abrasion resistant aluminium coatings, which resulted in the development of several patented technologies.
His broad expertise, his interest in current scientific issues and his participation in the European platform SusChem allowed him to win and successfully implement several European Commission Horizon projects. As a result, Svajus' activities have been very well received by foreign partners.
At the same time, he has never refused to help any Lithuanian company with problems close to his expertise. His so-called economic work included lubricant chemistry, tribology, aluminium surface preparation and rubber processing technologies. Most importantly, the processes he developed did not lie in drawers but were put into practice. Perhaps the most impressive is the tyre rubber recycling technology he and his colleagues developed, the widespread application of which was limited only by the fall in world rubber prices. Svajus kept mentioning that when those prices returned to their primary levels, the technology he had developed should guarantee millions in profits.
Passion. Svajus was a great fan of tennis and was active in the sport. The conditions were favourable in this area, because as soon as he arrived I invited him to join the Verkiai Tennis Club, which was a club for scientists, in which he was actively involved. I also remember the principle FTMC physicists vs. chemists tennis doubles "battle", which Svajus and I managed to win, and for which Svajus had brought a special prize from the USA (a Scorpion in tequila). After becoming a senior researcher at FTMC, he was entitled to take part in the Professors' Tennis Cup, which he practically never missed every year, and he had won many prizes.
Patriot. It was only during the funeral that I found out that Svajus was an active member of the Lithuanian Riflemen's Union. I regret that I was not aware of this fact and, unfortunately, I have no knowledge of what he did in this area.
(Dr. Svajus Asadauskas. Photo from personal Facebook account)
Dr. Ramūnas Valiokas, Head of the Department of Nanoengineering, member of the association Futura Scientia
We met, as is typical nowadays, on the internet. I don't remember whether I was still a PhD student or already post-doctoral at the time when I was working in Sweden for a while. I had an idea there - to try to bring together other Lithuanian expatriate scientists and PhD students in an informal forum to promote and support the changes in Lithuanian science.
We called it the Lithuanian Foreign Science Forum. As far as I remember, Svajus joined our electronic communication quite early on. This network connected probably about 60 PhD students, postdocs and other scientists who had left Lithuania.
Some time later, when some of us defended our PhD theses or completed other work, we were all still united by the same idea - to work in Lithuania and try to use our knowledge and experience to promote change in the scientific system, more specifically in the management of universities, institutes and other scientific institutions. Because, in our opinion, at that time the Lithuanian system was still inherited from the old days and only cosmetically reformed.
Some time later, we met in person after he returned to Lithuania in 2008. We still shared a common interest in bringing about change in the science funding system, including on topics such as employee retention, assessment of indicators, and priority setting.
Svajus brought experience from the United States, I brought experience from Sweden and Germany. We were united in our desire to compare these experiences, to understand their fundamental differences and to offer our prescriptions to decision-makers. This was helped by the fact that we both had very wide contacts abroad.
And then we decided to set up Futura Scientia to formalise our activities, to define a work plan and to pursue our objectives within the framework of our capabilities. Svajus was one of the founding members and was repeatedly elected to the association's board.
Our contact has continued ever since, all the way to January 2023.
Svajus' personality was very good, I am talking about his ability to communicate in a human way. I did not hear any anger from him throughout our communication. Of course, we were often critical of the various institutions (and, I think, deservedly so), but Svajus was always calm, peaceful, consistent and correct in his communication. And that has remained an example for me ever since.
Our research interests differed, but I remember one professional case. My PhD student was defending his thesis, and I invited Svajus to join my dissertation committee. You could immediately sense that he was a scientist at heart: his genuine curiosity, his ability to pick out what was important and what was not, his ability to criticize and advise... These qualities seem to have shaped his professional choices.
His warmth and goodwill were felt from personal interactions to professional activities. He was a man of consistency, without any tactical calculations, doing everything sincerely.
(Dr. Svajus Asadauskas. Photo from personal Facebook account)
Dr. Rasa Pauliukaitė, Department of Nanoengineering
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