Dr Camille Petit, Reader in Materials Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering

We are a team of about 10 researchers who investigate porous materials for applications in the energy and environmental sectors.” 

I have always struggled to fully enjoy the things around me if I can’t understand them. Ultimately, I think this is what has pushed me to studying science and engineering – along with the supportive environment around me.

After finishing my bachelors and master’s degree in the south of France, I moved to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for a research project and then to New York, US, for my PhD and postdoc. These have been very enriching experiences, technically and culturally.

Today, I lead the Multifunctional Materials research group in the Department of Chemical Engineering. We are a team of about 10 researchers who investigate porous materials for applications in the energy and environmental sectors. For instance, we look at developing materials and processes to capture CO2 or materials that can convert chemicals into fuels using sunlight. Some of our projects tend to be more fundamental while others are applied and typically in partnership with industry. I like maintaining these two aspects to satisfy both my natural scientific curiosity and my pursuit to create change. 

Our research is predominantly experimental, so the lockdown has significantly changed our day-to-day, but my group members have quickly adapted to the situation. They have learned new skills and concepts, worked on papers and reports, reached out to prospective collaborators, shifted project scope, organised online socials or used their allowed outdoor time to practice cycling to College in preparation of the re-opening! 

Overall, they have been very supportive of one another and I am genuinely amazed by their proactivity and creativity. Today, many of them are back in the lab. They cannot operate as they used to but have again shown patience, flexibility and commitment.   

On my side, I continue to work from home. My new ‘colleague’ is my 4-year-old daughter. We have diverging views on how to spend our days and she pushes me to be more efficient so I can spend time playing with her. Although it is challenging to look after her while trying to work, I am grateful for the time we have together. 

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