Incoming: Prof. Timothy Deming from University of California Los Angeles
Professor Timothy Deming, the 2015/2016 Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair, arrived at the University of Bordeaux (UBx) to conduct research and teached from February to July 2016. Professor of Bioengineering and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Prof. Deming was hosted at UBx by Professor Sébastien Lecommandoux, Director of the Laboratoire de Chimie des Polymères Organiques (LCPO – Organic Polymer Chemistry Laboratory).
For collaboration reasons that go back over 14 years! I was first invited by Prof. Lecommandoux in 2002 for a seminar and since then, our collaboration has constantly moved forward. In 2010, we launched a multinational, multi-university project funded by a grant from the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) within the field of polymer chemistry and this was followed by my first visiting professor experience at UBx for two months in the spring of 2012.
In 2013 and 2014, workshops were organized in both UCLA and UBx bringing together researchers from both sides of the Atlantic. Over these past years, we have built up a very strong, active partnership that we would like to develop to further fields of research, and other projects such as student exchanges and jointly supervised PhD students between the universities.
What are the specific strengths that UBx offers in your domain?
The lab headed by Prof. Lecommandoux has expertise that is very complementary to the expertise of my own lab in UCLA. While both labs carry out research in the domain of polymer assemblies, Bordeaux is advanced within the domain of polymer assembly and characterization while UCLA has specific skills within the domain of polymer synthesis and modification.
Brought together, we will be able to make significant progress, specifically for biopolymer – based on synthetic materials that can mimic the properties of natural materials. Our collaborative research aims to lead to the development of biopolymers that may be used for medical diagnostics and applications (regeneration of tissues, therapeutic treatments, biological experiments etc.)
What is the topic of your inaugural lecture?
It will naturally be based on the subject of my research here which is biopolymers and how to create synthetic polymers that replicate the properties of natural polymer materials such as viruses, tissues, and proteins. I will present and discuss this field that involves studying biological structures in order to understand their properties and interactions and then, attempting to re-create these with bio-inspired synthetic materials to create polymers that interact positively with the human system.
What do you hope to achieve from your experience in Bordeaux?
Over the next six months, we would like to structure and extend the collaboration between UCLA and UBx. One of the main ideas we will be working on with Prof. Lecommandoux is the creation of a virtual CNRS (French National Scientific Research Center) laboratory at UCLA with dedicated resources where American and French researchers may carry out their work together on joint projects.
The curiosity of a researcher is never satisfied so whereas I plan to make good progress with these projects between now and July, I’m also sure to uncover many new questions and ideas on the way that will lead to yet more plans for joint research!
How has your welcome and integration been so far?
Unfortunately it’s impossible to avoid a mass of paperwork when arriving in a new country. The Welcome Center for International Researchers has helped by providing the necessary information in order to tackle the various administrative tasks. At the laboratory, the staff has been extremely welcoming and accommodating. What helps is that I know Bordeaux fairly well at this stage, even though it has changed quite a bit over the past decade and more. Within the city and the campus sites, new buildings have been constructed and old ones are being renovated.
With my stay lasting 6 months this time, my family and I hope to make the most of our time and plan on visiting more of the surrounding region and of France. For the moment though – during the winter months – we’re happy to just focus on getting settled with my four-year old daughter already off to her French school and delighted to splash in the puddles on the way – we don’t get this kind of rain in Los Angeles!
Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair
The Fulbright-Tocqueville Distinguished Chair award was created in 2005 in commemoration of the bicentennial celebration of Alexis de Tocqueville’s birthday and the centennial celebration of U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright’s birthday. The award, the most prestigious offered by the Franco-American Fulbright Commission, aims to reinforce collaborative research between France and the United States in France.