1. What made you want to be a chemist?
I was always interested in maths, physics, chemistry and biology at school – however I find that there is more room for creativity in chemistry. Also, an enthusiastic chemistry teacher the year I had to make a choice definitely had an influence on me.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
A teacher! I grew up in a family of teachers and always thought I would become one (while constantly changing my mind about the subject I was going to teach). I think education is of particular importance and I wouldn’t mind being a part of it. If I really could be anything I would also love to be a painter – but it was clear from an early age that my drawing abilities weren’t up to it.
3. How can chemists best contribute to the world at large?
In various ways, chemists are already looking for answers to current problems in an incredibly broad range of areas – from environmental to health issues. There is also a communication problem between scientists and the general public, with most people not being really sure of what researchers actually do… Making chemistry better understood to the public, through education, would be extremely valuable.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
He’s already been chosen a couple of times but if he’s allowed one more dinner I’d like to meet Nelson Mandela, whose fight for freedom and equality undeniably changed the world.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
When I was finishing my PhD, two years ago. I was investigating a copper-based metal-organic framework formed with two types of ligands, wistfully looking for outstanding gas storage properties. I particularly liked that framework for its structure, but also (or did I mean mostly?) the fact that it grew in the form of beautiful green crystals.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book, and one CD would you take with you?
This is an incredibly hard choice. Sadly, I would have to give JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings a miss, purely because I’ve read it (and now also seen the films) so many times. I’d love to take with me La Saga Malaussène, by Daniel Pennac, a series of books relating with much style and wit the ever-entertaining adventures of the Malaussène family living in Belleville, Paris. Oh is ‘a series of books’ cheating? Then I’d bring Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts – I’ve just started reading it and it seems really compelling. As for the CD I would go with Bob Marley’s Legend.