Born in 1945 in a commune near Galati, Margareta Nicolau has graduated as an eminent student in organic chemistry, at Faculty of Chemistry within the University of Bucharest.
She started to work as a junior scientific researcher in chemical research and development and both her dedication and passion for work produced their first notable results in the synthesis and characterization of acrylic compounds. A long series of published papers and awarded patents awarded set off immediately and, for her original research, Margareta Nicolau was awarded the prestigious “Gheorghe Spacu” Prize of the Romanian Academy in 1978. Methods and technologies devised by Margareta Nicolau were subsequently implemented in the industrial phase. As a researcher in Pulp and Paper Industry or in the Romanian Army Research and Development Center, Margareta Nicolau proved the same enduring, imaginative fighting spirit and search for innovation and enlarging the Romanian chemistry horizon. Here again, her research and development work materialized in numerous technical papers and awarded prizes and patents.
From 1982 onward, Margareta Nicolau worked with the Romanian Institute for Research and Design in Wastewater Treatment (ICPEAR) – that after 1990 was renamed National Research and Development Institute for Industrial Ecology – ECOIND, Margareta Nicolau, leading a number of exceptionally gifted researchers, contributed decisively to the structuring of a brilliant team that became renown at national and international level.
Step by step, accumulating scientific, technical and economical expertize directly from solving practical problems and carrying out challenging tasks, Margareta Nicolau and the ECOIND team acquired the status and prestige that now accompanies the name of one of the best Romanian Research Development Institute. The scope of her work covered a vast area, from very specific pollution problems connected to petrochemical, organic/inorganic chemical industry, metallurgy, etc., to assessing large environmental disasters or to detailed long-term policy and strategy building activities associated to most important Romanian industries.
Again, her work at the head of the ECOIND team in carrying out hundreds of projects led to a vast number of scientific papers, patents and prizes awarded: over 230 technical publications (papers and communications at Romanian and International technical events), 24 patents awarded, 8 prizes awarded by the Romanian Academy, National and International Technical Fairs and the Romanian Chemical Society.
Starting as a laboratory scientific researcher, Margareta Nicolau climbed up the corporate ladder that finally led her, in 1990, to the position of General Director of ECOIND. Each step up to that ladder meant not only the acquiring of technical knowledge and professional know-how, not only won battles at the edge of scientific comprehension but it also gave her the opportunity to activate and implement her outstanding vision in the field of industrial ecology (an area known as multidisciplinary, complex, dense and difficult), namely: environment and ecology must become a part of every human activity, must prevail over profit and economic advantages, must be learned by all specialists and become their way of thinking and their way of life. Caring for natural habitats and environment meant, for Margareta Nicolau, not only minimization of waste generation rate or waste neutralization but finding ways to turn waste into valuable resources by implementing very new paradigms (e.g., industrial symbiosis).
A vast number of projects financed by national and international entities (such as United Nations, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, European Union, bilateral agreements) led by Margareta Nicolau as Project Director or having Margareta Nicolau in their team of renown and proficient experts, confirmed and substantiated the correctness and appropriateness of her vision.
A special remark should be added related to the project led by Margareta Nicolau in the last years of activity: development of a new modern research infrastructure dedicated to industrial ecology. She left this legacy to the next generation of environmental researchers with the dream that will become a pole of excellence in environmental research at international level.
Margareta Nicolau was a very special breed of Romanian managers, an effigy that, though difficult and demanding, must be followed and emulated. She knew in the faintest detail every Project issued by ECOIND, be it in the field of chemistry, biology, ecology, sustainable development strategy, etc. Her very special skill, knowledge and love for the human nature enabled her to select, keep and lead a number of experienced specialists of very different character. Scientific researchers are generally known for being independent, self-governing, and difficult to accept to be members of a team. But the scientific researchers in ECOIND became, led by Margareta Nicolau a solid and robust group of specialists having complementary experience, acting together, sharing the vision and carrying out the mission devised by their leader.
Margareta Nicolau quest for top quality and perfection preceded and went far beyond the ISO certifications obtained by ECOIND, becoming, practically, the ECOIND’s and Margareta Nicolau’s way of excellence and distinction. This very special way means looking for where the battle with mediocrity is, carrying out an unyielding fight with routine and complacency. To this, Margareta Nicolau added, unfortunately, her long and painful fight with a cruel disease.
Beside her comprehensive scientific, technical, economic and human touch experience and understanding, beside her relentless fight for being the best, Margareta Nicolau was a very religious person. She unabatedly and obstinately followed the teachings of the Fathers of our Church, believing that they instil that kind of discipline, control and mastery of body and mind that must lead, illuminate and help every human being in every moment of his life.
May God rest her great and good soul and teach us how to bear on and spread the flame of her spirit!