A young researcher in the spotlight: XAVIER CATTOEN

Your background is in the field of Organic chemistry, how did you end-up working on sol-gel?

There was an opportunity for me to join the group of Michel Wong Chi Man at CNRS. Fortunately, he also started his career in molecular chemistry before he entered the sol-gel field, and that made it easy to do research together and to exchange about the different processes, mechanisms and characterization techniques.

What is the most exciting part of your job and what would you like to change?

I really like to train students and to teach them the various aspects of chemistry or physics of sol-gel materials. I also enjoy a lot meeting expert researchers in all domains of physics, chemistry or even biology who share a lot of knowledge which enables me to keep on learning new things.

What do you like in the sol-gel community?

Essentially, I like the multidisciplinary. At the Sol-Gel conference, one can see talks about batteries, catalysis, spectroscopy or medicine. It is a very open community with a lot of collaborations.

What are your goals, for your research activities and your career?

One of the tricky points in sol-gel science, and one of my main goals in research is to understand precisely the mechanisms leading to a particular morphology, porosity or functionality. Too many research articles are too simplistic on this aspect. Also, owing to the numerous functionalities needed on a single nanoparticle for applications in nanomedicine, I’m trying to implement reliable methodologies for controlled multiple functionalization.

Do you have any advice for students who approach sol-gel chemistry for the first time ?

Some sol-gel reactions may be really tricky: in order to get reproducible results, you should always start a project by using new bottles of precursors and solvents, or even better, freshly distilled compounds. Trying to reproduce experiments made under conditions not well controlled is often a very hard task.