Nicola Zanda, PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Arjan W. Kleij and Prof. Miquel À. Pericàs (ICIQ), has defended his PhD thesis entitled “Continuous Flow Catalysis for the Valorization of Carbon Dioxide” (assigned to the Analytical and Organic Chemistry Department of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili) publicly on June 27th.
The members of the evaluation committee were: Prof. Dr. Montserrat Diéguez (URV), Prof. Dr. Sandor Ötvos (University of Graz), and Prof. Dr. Bruno Grignard (University of Liège).
Dr. Zanda is from Oristano, a small city in Sardinia. He studied Pharmaceutical Chemistry and Technology at University of Cagliari, and when he finished in 2018, he worked at Jansen for a year as a researcher. In 2019, he joined the Kleij and Pericàs groups at ICIQ for his PhD. In his spare time, he enjoys going to the beach, running, reading, watching movies, and playing team sports – every week he plays soccer with other ICIQers.
What is your thesis about?
During my PhD, I have been working on CO2 valorisation in continuous flow. By using heterogeneous catalysis, I have prepared biologically active molecules and other intermediates that can be used in advanced synthesis.
Why did you decide to pursue this project?
Firstly, it’s a multidisciplinary project, which by itself was of interest to me. But also, being able to use CO2 as a carbon source would be more convenient – and sustainable – than using other sources. Lately, the techniques for carbon capture have evolved greatly so now CO2 is much cheaper and industry is interested in approaches that can make something relevant out of CO2.
Why did you become a scientist?
I’m very curious and I enjoy spending time in a scientific environment, things are always changing and there’s always some problem to be solved, which is something that really motivates me.
From the lessons learnt during your PhD, which one do you value the most?
When in the lab, take advantage of every moment: if you can do something now, do it, don’t leave it for tomorrow because things tend to pile up!
What will you miss the most from ICIQ?
ICIQ has extremely good facilities, it’s difficult to find research centres with such state-of-the-art equipment. To do excellent research you need excellent facilities!
What advice do you have for someone who’s starting now their PhD?
Be prepared and take advantage of every moment. For sure, there will be tough moments, but don’t give up because resilience is very important when doing a PhD.
Chemistry is fun… because you never know what can go wrong and you’ll need to solve it.
Favourite molecule: theobromine because it’s the molecule of happiness, and PhD students need a lot of it!
I’m still doing interviews, but I’m looking for a position in a pharmaceutical or organic chemistry company, which it’s my preferred environment.
If you were to become a piece of lab equipment, what would you be?
An HPLC pump, the one that we use for flow chemistry. It’s the key element of a flow system: it pushes the solvent and the reactant in the system, so it needs to work steadily during the whole of the experiment – similar to what a PhD student needs to do during their thesis!