Outgoing: Prof Rénal Backov at the MIT, Boston, USA

Rénal Backov is a professor at the University of Bordeaux and carries out his research at the Centre de Recherche Paul Pascal laboratory (CRPP). Since September 2017, he has been researching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston USA.

  • 06/02/2018

Prof. Backov’s field of research concerns the rational design of advanced functional materials by effectively combining chemistry and physical chemistry of complex fluids (ref. his work concerning the formalization of the concept of Integrative Chemistry).

What is the topic of your research?

My research is based on bringing together the chemistry and physical chemistry of complex fluids (air liquid foams, emulsions, external fields such as extrusion, spray drying, electrospinning, etc.) to shape condensed matter at various length scales. Once the multiscale architectures are generated, the applications are rather wide, ranging from heterogeneous catalysis, to stimulated drug delivery or energy storage and conversion.

Why did you choose to embark on this mobility experience?

Twenty years ago, I began my career as a research assistant at the University of Florida and stayed there for over three years. Following this initial American experience, I started working at the University of Bordeaux where, fifteen years later, I still enjoy teaching and researching. However, over the years, both my wife and I found ourselves missing the US a lot. This is the reason why the whole family decided to embark on this international experience. As a result, our 12-year-old daughter is now becoming a true “patriot”, inevitable when you live in Boston!

What motivated your decision to collaborate within the UMI “MultiScale Material Science for Energy and Environment”.

My colleague, Roland Pellenq, head of the UMI (international joint research unit)MultiScale Material Science for Energy and Environment”, invited me to the MIT to address topics dedicated to novel cement and kerogen (the carbon counterpart of shales). These materials possess a multiscale texture like the ones I generate at the CRPP, but the topic is totally different with a strong connection to industry.

What are your objectives for this mobility experience?

One of my first objectives was to discover new horizons not only on a professional level but also on a personal level, along with my family. For example, my daughter is learning about living in another country as well as practicing the language of Shakespeare with a Boston accent – it’s fantastic! Another objective was to transfer my knowledge towards unexplored topics and to learn more - with the aim of always learning in order to question and contradict certainties (which are wrong most of the time!). The final objective is a shared one. It concerns a partnership between the University of Bordeaux and the MIT based on the UMI as a nucleation site. This initiative is becoming a collective adventure involving the University of Bordeaux (along with the support of the Bordeaux Initiative of Excellence), the MIT and the CNRS. This international partnership is an ongoing process so stay tuned for more details later on in 2018!

To conclude, both my family and I are great fans of the US and feel comfortable living over sea. We already knew the country before this journey and have remarked with this current trip, that the old saying is still true here - “everything is possible” as long as you work hard!

Believe you can and you're halfway there.

Theodore Roosevelt —