1. What made you want to be a chemist?
At first I was interested in process engineering, more in particular in ways how to increase efficiency, to make industrial processes cleaner and decrease pollution. After a while I got fascinated by all the chemistry behind this and decided to continue in that direction. During my major with Roeland Nolte, I ‘sold my soul’ when I for the first time felt the enormous excitement upon designing and synthesizing a new compound to find it had unique — and unexpected — properties.
2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?
Probably a musician. Besides science, and my family now, music has always been a big passion for me. It is also a profession that needs the right combination of skills and creativity in order to be successful.
3. How can chemists best contribute to the world at large?
I think there are several themes of global concern to which chemists can contribute. Sustainability, of course, is very topical. New resources and catalytic processes are typical areas heavily connected to chemistry. But also the molecular understanding of processes in biology, more and more require the cross-disciplinary involvement of chemists. For example, the question ‘How does the brain work?’, without doubt needs the input of chemists to get closer to an answer.
4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?
Leonardo da Vinci, likely the first multi-disciplinary scientist and artist. If someone who was born over 550 years ago still manages to inspire so many people, they must be truly an exceptional person.
5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?
Occasionally, I help out others with certain measurements. The last time I really have set up and performed an experiment, it was the purification of some virus capsid protein materials about 18 months ago.
6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one CD would you take with you?
That is a difficult question, I can not recall ever having read the same book twice. So it will have to be a book I have not read yet and there are so many… At this moment Muse – Absolution, is in my CD player, so I might take that one, but if I am in a different mood later it could also be Mozart or Metallica. Anyway, I am not the most patient person, I am a pretty good swimmer and one of my advisors once told me that you have to be willing to go for the impossible…
Jeroen Cornelissen is in the Institute for Molecules and Materials at the Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands and works on hybrid materials of biopolymers and synthetic macromolecules, and on virus capsids as new reactors.