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Advent calendar - December 21st - Gianni Pacella

21 December 2023

In the Zernike Institute Advent Calendar, we are presenting 24 short spotlights in December. In these specials, we highlight PhD students, postdocs, support staff and technicians of our research groups and team - providing a glimpse in their typical day at work. In Episode 21 meet Gianni Pacella, PhD student in the Physical Chemistry of Polymeric and Nanostructured Materials group of Prof. Giuseppe Portale.

Gianni Pacella
Gianni Pacella

I am working as a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Groningen in the group of Physical Chemistry of Polymeric and Nanostructured Materials, and part of an interdisciplinary consortium called "Out-of-equilibrium chemical systems" whose research is focused on the development of artificial life-like systems and materials. My research has the aim to synthesize dynamic small molecules that can be easily incorporated into soft and versatile materials such as polymers.

Through the past three years, I have designed several new photo-responsive molecules that can change their structure and properties in response to light irradiation, i.e., molecular photo-switches. I am now exploring the use of such dynamic building blocks to create smart materials where the light-induced change in a single molecule has an impact on the macroscopic properties of the whole material. In this way, I pursue control over the ionic transport and mechanical response of soft materials, and I dream of being able to mimic the non-equilibrium flow and release of ions, often found in biological systems.

I really like my project as it is highly interdisciplinary since organic synthesis, physical chemistry, and computational chemistry are involved in understanding and unraveling the complex mechanisms and pathways that are hidden behind the working principle of responsive and out-of-equilibrium materials. In addition, something that I am very grateful for is the opportunity I have to collaborate with many other world-leading scientists from different institutes and universities where I can use my expertise to perform unique X-ray scattering measurements on complex and dynamic systems to understand how the microscopic properties and the change in the nanostructure can impact the macroscopic behavior of smart and dynamic materials.

Last modified:14 December 2023 3.04 p.m.

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