Martina OREFICE obtained a PhD in Chemistry in 2019. She works in the SOLVOMET group of KU Leuven and in the H2020 MSCA ETN-DEMETER project as researcher, communication & dissemination expert and project manager. (25.02.2021)

What are you working on?

My research and expertise is in the field of metal recovery and low-grade resources valorization and mainly in leaching. Within the TARANTULA project, I work on recovering strong metals – tungsten, niobium and tantalum – from tailings and low grade sources. During my PhD, I also worked on metal recovery but from end-of-life materials. They are all considered urban mines, although each with different characteristics and challenges. In any case, there is no doubt that we can no longer postpone the investigation and exploitation of such anthropogenic sources of raw materials to sustain the current production of goods.

What attracts you in the research project you are working on?

First of all, all the differences, and thus the challenges, compared to the project in which I was enrolled for my PhD: the closer contact to industries and especially to mines and the fact that the target materials are mine tailings which necessarily requires a significant pretreatment (done by the project partner ULiège) and have a way lower metal content compared to the rare-earth permanent magnets recycled during the years of the PhD. Moreover, I am also involved in TARANTULA as communication & dissemination expert: taking part in our short-movie has been a lot fun; or, for instance, contributing to realizing the first DMP of the project has also been an interesting challenge which gave me the opportunity to learn a lot in this new and expanding aspect of the research.

I am also enthusiastic and glad of working in European projects since it gives a wider perspective of the problem and make us stronger in finding solutions, keeping a connection for the academia with both the industry and the public institutions.

Martina Orefice in the TARANTULA project presentation film

Where do you work? What do you like about your organization or the city you live in?

I work in the SOLVOMET group of KU Leuven, in Leuven (Belgium) which is also part of the SIM2 KU Leuven Institute. I joined the group to do my PhD and found there an intercultural and multi-expertise team, which let me to learn a lot and to grow professionally and personally. The city where I live is as much multicultural and interactive with events organized every day, also thanks to the presence of the university.
Finally, living in Belgium is a perfect starting spot for travelling around Europe (when allowed) by train or plane…perfect for me!

Martina Orefice – Cooking

How do you recharge?

By cooking. It might be a cliché that Italians do love cooking, but it applies in my case. Before the beginning of the pandemics, I regularly invited friends and colleagues for dinners or Sunday lunch; after, the social distancing has been also an opportunity to treat myself by testing many new recipes. But I also cooked for and with many friends, that is all the participants of the cooking workshops that I organized (among other events) with the association of Italian culture La Dante di Lovanio (see photo). I also love reading, novels and essays, travelling or exploring the surroundings (just discovered how many castles are there to visit in Belgium!) and having time with family and friends.


Martina Orefice – KU Leuven

Martina Orefice was born in Naples (Italy) and there she studied at the University Federico II, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sciences (2010), a bachelor’s (2012) and a master (2015) in Chemical Engineering. All her projects have dealt with recovery and valorization of secondary raw materials, an interest born thanks to a board game – received at the age of 10 years old – with the apparently simple scope of saving the Planet Earth from pollution. She moved to Belgium in 2015 to join the H2020 MSCA ETN-DEMETER project and obtain a PhD in Chemistry, once again a new field. Since 2019, she works in the H2020 MSCA ETN-DEMETER project as researcher, communication & dissemination expert and project manager.