Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Reactions – Christophe Copéret

Christophe Copéret is at the Department of Chemistry, ETH Zurich in Switzerland, where he works on functional materials with applications in catalysis, molecular recognition, imaging and microelectronics.

1. What made you want to be a chemist?

When I was a kid, I read books from my older brothers, and one of them discussed about possible jobs in the world of adults! I was struck by a section dealing with “ingénieur chimiste”, because that job dealt with making complex structures and processes using small Legos, named molecules. This was definitely one of the key reasons for me to become a chemist, and this was further motivated over the years by very good and rigorous high-school teachers in physics and chemistry.

2. If you weren’t a chemist and could do any other job, what would it be – and why?

I would certainly love to be a historian and a sociologist, because I am fascinating by the history of human beings, but a more realistic alternative would be to be a chef.

3. What are you working on now, and where do you hope it will lead?

We are dealing with the understanding of chemistry occurring at the surfaces of materials. We hope we can reach the level of precision of today’s molecular biology and chemistry with complex inorganic systems in such a way that we can design very complex functional materials via a molecular approach like we currently do with molecules.

4. Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with – and why?

I would be thrilled to be able to have dinner with Tocqueville; he had an amazing foresight of political systems regarding the advantages and disadvantages of different democratic systems, while he was working for the King of France. His views were so clear at the time that they are still applicable today, explaining most of our current world turbulences.

5. When was the last time you did an experiment in the lab – and what was it?

A few weeks ago, helping students with glass-blowing (a very important technique in our lab and a good way to relax between proposal and manuscript writing!).

6. If exiled on a desert island, what one book and one music album would you take with you?

Choosing is always difficult, I guess I would go with the collection “A la recherche du temps perdu” from Marcel Proust and if I had to take a single book it would be the last volume “Le temps retrouvé”.

Concerning music, it would be a piece of one the Russian composers, and I would then probably pick the piano concerto n°3 from Rachmaninov.

7. Which chemist would you like to see interviewed on Reactions – and why?

This would certainly be among emerging scientists. I would thus pick within close collaborators and friends, with whom I have enjoyed discussing chemistry: Olivier Maury from ENS Lyon, specialist of luminescent molecules and materials, and Chloé Thieuleux from CPE Lyon, experts in material chemistry.


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