Postdoctoral Trainee in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Andrea Giuntoli is a postdoctoral trainee in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering. He received his PhD in physics from the University of Pisa in Italy. Andrea’s research is interested in the fundamental links between the dynamics, structure, and macroscopic properties of nanocomposites and the development of next-generation materials. He is a member of the Keten Research Group at Northwestern.
How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
The properties of everyday life materials depend on their molecular structure in ways that we don't fully understand. By controlling these effects, I can develop new amazing materials. It's like playing with Legos, but with very, very tiny blocks!
What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
One day, an unexpected email invited me to move from Italy to Maryland to work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology for my first postdoc. Saying "yes" was scary, but it positively changed my life!
Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.
At first, my work was inspired by curiosity and a desire to learn the hidden rules of the universe. That part is still there, but now it's also about nurturing new scientists and seeing that my work has an impact on the growth of the people around me.
What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work?
Every day is a new problem. No one else in the world has done it yet, so no one can tell you the solution. But every day is a new problem! No one else in the world has done it yet, so you break new ground every time! It's hard to get bored with that.
What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?
If my work is able to predict the emergent properties of polymer composites from their molecular structure, then we will be able to use this knowledge to engineer new materials for the most diverse applications, from 3D-printing to biomedical devices to impact-resistant composites.
Northwestern is part of the Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD), a collaboration with the University of Chicago, National Institute for Standards and Technology, and Argonne National Laboratory within the U.S. federal government's Materials Genome Initiative. It's hard to overstate the worldwide leading role of this collaboration in the field of material science.
What books are on your bedside table?
My go-to staples are The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, Opera Nova by Achille Marozzo, plus the latest fantasy novel I'm reading at the moment.
What inspires you?
I know that I am on the right track when I see that my work is attracting new people to the field and igniting a spark in students and colleagues, and it gives me the energy to face the next challenge.
What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
When I was ten years old, I decided that I wanted to be a scientist. I feel lucky to have been able to pursue my dream.
Published: March 9, 2021
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