Seven years ago, I chose to specialize in chemistry and completed a Bachelor degree in the Faculty of Science and Technology of Fez, my home city in Morocco. After my graduation I knew that among all the branches of chemistry, Inorganic chemistry for material science was the one that attracted me the most because of the physico-chemical interface that enables materials elaboration along with the study of their physical properties. I decided to move to France and continue my studies with a Master degree in chemistry and materials engineering at Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France in Valenciennes, through which I was able to discover the different classes of materials and how they can be functionalized and studied to meet different challenges in industry, environment, and health. And that’s where my interest in research started to grow, with a particular taste for functional materials. For my second year Master project, I moved to Montpellier where I had the opportunity to work on a research project in the Institut Charles Gerhardt Montpellier (ICGM) under the supervision of Professor Ahmad Mehdi. The project involved the synthesis of silica monoliths doped with oxide nanoparticles for manufacturing optical fiber, where I had to investigate the cause of zirconia nanoparticle deformation during the drawing of the monoliths. Unfortunately, this internship period coincided with the first major lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic and no experimental work could be undertaken. However, through this period, I was introduced to sol-gel chemistry and the nanomaterials field and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.
In October 2020, I had the opportunity to be enrolled in an international PhD program between the University of Montpellier (France) under the direction of Professor Jean-Louis Bantignies (Laboratoire Charles Coulomb) and the University of Aveiro (Portugal) under the direction of Professor Luís D. Carlos (CICECO, Aveiro institute of materials). My project in-volves the development of a multifunctional nanoplatform for intracellular thermosensing. The idea is to encapsu-late a functional nanoparticle acting as a nanothermometer inside a biocompatible mesoporous hybrid silica shell acting as a nanocarrier, and to study the effect of nano confinement on the physical properties. For the first two years of my thesis, I developed the synthesis of the multifunctional nanoplatform. This work was undertaken in collaboration with ICGM under the supervision of Dr Michel Wong Chi Man, who introduced me to the sol-gel synthesis of bridged silsesquioxanes (BS) and periodic mesoporous organosilicas (PMO) that will serve as the encapsulating matrix. In the meantime, I worked on the synthesis of hollow periodic mesoporous organosilica nanoparticles (HPMO) of different sizes, with a perspective to use the same synthesis strategies in the nanosensor encapsulation step. In July 2022, I presented my work on HPMO nanoparticles at the 21st International Sol-Gel Conference in Lyon, and I was honored to receive one of the awards for the best sol-gel poster.
The next phase of my thesis work will be undertaken in Aveiro, where I’ll be focusing on a study of the photolumi-nescence properties of the as-synthesized PMO-encapsulated nanothermometers, prior to their in-vivo/in-vitro evaluation with our collaborators at the Institut des Biomolécules Max Mousseron (IBMM) in Montpellier.