A Focus on our PhD Students – Margot Van der Verren


Winner of the 2022 ISGS Renata Reisfeld PhD student fellowship for women in sol-gel science and technology)

My interest in science, and more precisely in biology and chemistry, led me to pursue a degree in bioscience engineering at the Catholic University of Louvain-la-Neuve (UCLouvain). During my bachelor degree, I was able to work for the first time in a laboratory and I quickly realized that through chemical analysis and experimentation, I was able to gain insights into the properties of matter, and the way in which elements interact. As I progressed through my studies, I became increasingly more interested in the practical applications of chemistry and lab work. I further specialized in nanobiotechnology, materials and catalysis during my master degree. I started to work in the laboratory of Professor Damien Debecker during my master thesis in which I focused on the one-pot preparation of a hybrid chemo-enzymatic catalyst made of TS-1 zeolites and glucose oxidase enzyme us-ing the aerosol process. The results obtained offered new perspectives, not only in

After my master graduation in 2019, I directly began my PhD at UCLouvain, in the Institute of Condensed Matter and Nanosciences, and more precisely in the Molecular Chemistry, Materials and Catalysis division, under the supervision of Professor Damien Debecker. My research focuses on synthesizing novel bifunctional catalysts for the upgrading of bio-based glycerol to methyl lactate. To achieve this goal, I rely on the aerosol-assisted sol-gel process as it is an advantageous method for the synthesis of catalysts, offering high surface area, controlled particle size, uniform active sites distribution, flexibility, and scalability. I had the great opportunity to share some of my first results on the synthesis of an innovative mesoporous AuSiO2 material displaying highly dispersed small gold nanoparticles during the 2022 International Sol Gel Conference in Lyon. 

I am honored and grateful to be awarded the 2022 ISGS Renata Reisfeld PhD Student Fellowship for Women in Sol-Gel Science and Technology. I want to thank the ISGS for recognizing the importance of diversity and inclusivity in science, and for creating a platform to celebrate the achievements of women in STEM.