Welcome in your new role at EuChemS!

On 1 January 2022, Dr. Karsten Danielmeier, Covestro AG, will take over the presidency of the German Chemical Society (GDCh). Dr. Karsten Danielmeier is Senior Vice President and Head of Growth Businesses for the Business Unit Coatings & Adhesives since July 2021. After finishing his Ph. D. in Synthetic Organic Chemistry at Bonn University, he joined Bayer/Covestro in 1996 and has since worked in various functions with increasing responsibility in R&D, Product Management, Supply Chain Management and Technical Marketing in Germany and the US. His term of office will be two years.

Cristiana Radulescu​ is a new elected member of the EuChemS Executive Board as of 1 January 2022. She is currently the General Manager of the Institute of Multidisciplinary Research for Science and Technology-Valahia University of Targoviste (ICSTM-UVT). 

Annette Lykknes is the new chair of the EuChemS Working Party on History of Chemistry. She is a professor of chemistry education at NTNU – Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Teacher Education. 

Florian Budde is the President of the German Bunsen Society for Physical Chemistry. He is currently member of the Kebotix Advisory Panel, the Universitätsklinikum Frankfurt am Main Supervisory Board and the Guardhat Inc Advisory Board. With his expertise, he contributes to the EuChemS input to theHigh Level Roundtable on the implementation of the Chemicals Strategy.

Interview with EuChemS EUCYS 2021 winners, Louenn Colineaux and David Barbin  

EuChemS EUCYS 2021 winners, Louenn Colineaux and David Barbin, with their winning project “Is the study of chemical reactions possible on the scale of a drop?”.

In September 2021, Louenn Colineaux and David Barbin were awarded the special EuChemS prize at the 2021 edition of the EU Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) for their project “Is the study of chemical reactions possible on the scale of a drop?”.  

Both age 18, David started his research on this topic in his first years of high school in Laval (Mayenne region in France), and Louenn, from the same high school, where they later started collaborating on the project. Together, they built a device that replicates classic high school chemistry experiments on the scale of a drop – with a volume of one microliter. Their device is based on colorimetry: they used oil as a container for their water drops – as they are not miscible – and with the help of a syringe pump, they generated coloured drops in the oil. Through statistical study and analysis of photographic images, they can determine the volume of drops generated using the flow rate value displayed by the syringe pump, thus producing and isolating stable millireactors of identical volume.   

First, congratulations for winning the 2021 EUCYS EuChemS Award. How did you start having an interest in chemistry? And when did your interest for this field start?
David: I always knew I wanted to become a vet, so at an early age I started to focus on science. I like biology, but I preferred chemistry courses as I found the experiments fascinating. So, I joined the science workshop of our high school – a place where students can work during their free time on chemistry projects. With this group, I had the opportunity to attend scientific conferences and each time, I was impressed by the experts who presented their research at those events.

Louenn: In middle school, I did not really like sciences, and I had to work tirelessly in mathematics to overcome dyscalculia – which I did overcome. In high school, I discovered physics, chemistry, and biology – I really enjoyed doing experiments and became passionate about those topics.

Could you tell us more about how your winning project began? Did the initiative to compete come from you? How did you learn about this competition?
David: Initially, we were part of the science workshop of our high school, where students conduct research on a specific topic, imitating how experienced researchers would work. We are supervised by teachers, and when our project was satisfactory, they encouraged us to first present it at national contests, and then to participate in EUCYS.

Louenn: First, we participated in contests because we wanted to gain experience. We were happy to discover that we won the first prize of the CGénial contest, so we tried with EUCYS.

David: We also won the Olympiades de Physique France in 2020 with this project and we had the opportunity to participate in other regional contests, as well as in the international competition ‘Step into the future’.

Did the pandemic situation impact your work for this project?
Louenn: In 2020, we were not allowed to go to high school, so we could not meet during our science workshop meetings. During the academic year 2020-2021, we were back in high school every two or three weeks. We managed to organise our time in a way that we could focus on experiments during the weeks when we were allowed in our high school lab. 

David: All the contests after the pandemic were online. It is a shame because you miss out on interesting interactions with other participants and experts that you would have during physical events. 

What were the main obstacles you have encountered during your research? How did you overcome them?
David: We have been working on this project for three years, and I spent the first year focusing on conductometry before realising that this type of measurement would not work. Then, we switched to colorimetry, and tried for months to incorporate a peristaltic pump motor, but without success. This is how we ended up using a syringe pump. 

Louenn: Somehow, the whole project was a succession of obstacles, but we learned so much thanks to the difficulties we encountered. It is the fact that you stay stuck on something that will make you discover something that you were not necessarily looking for! 

David: When we were doing our research, we contacted some scientists whose work inspired us with this project and asked them our questions. We were lucky that most of them were very responsive and kind enough to advise us. 

What were the scientific outcomes of the project?
Louenn: By doing chemistry on the scale of a drop, we built a green device as we use less volume of products for experiments, thus avoiding waste and reducing costs. Also, our device provides reliable measurements. 

How do you see this project evolving in the future? Have you thought about applying for a commercial patent?
Louenn: For now, we are busy with our demanding studies – I started a Bachelor of Medicine and David got into a veterinary school. It would be interesting to keep this project within the sphere of high school to show to other young students what microfluidic is, how it works and make it is accessible to them. 

David: It is not an expensive device to produce, and the fact that it is ecological and reliable invites us to further reflect in this regard. 

Finally, is there any message you would like to leave to younger people who are reading this interview?
Louenn: The sciences are accessible to everyone, there must be at least one field that you like! Find out what drives you and keep on learning! I would also like to thank all the scientific experts who keep on conducting their research and making science accessible to everyone, they are inspiring younger generations to follow in their steps. 

David: Never give up and do not limit yourself! Science is so vast, you will for sure find a field that makes you passionate. 

Interview of Louenn Colineaux and David Barbin, EuChemS EUCYS winners 2021
Conducted by Laura Jousset, EuChemS Science Communication & Policy Officer