J.-C. Castaing is a Research and Innovation (R&I) Department Manager in the R&I Center-Paris, and an expert in Soft Matter.


When did you decide to be a chemist?

It was just after graduating from the Centrale Paris School of Engineering: during a course on solid-state physics, I was offered to write a thesis in the area of Soft Matter, a scientific field I was absolutely not familiar with at that time. So I began to attend a course at the Collège de France on adhesive and encapsulation systems: the class was given by Prof. Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, shortly before he received the Nobel Prize in Physics (in 1991). Although those systems could seem quite traditional, I started to see them as fascinating objects with which everything remained to be done in terms of innovation. So I can say this major, life-changing encounter with Prof. de Gennes was the starting point of my career in the area of Soft Matter.


When did you start working at Solvay?

Once I completed my thesis, I joined Solvay where I held several different positions over time. My current responsibility consists of supporting the launch of new projects within the Group, making links with the outside world, and working on projects specific to the agricultural sector, such as the seed boosting project and its associated product.


What have been some highlights in your career?

A particularly delightful experience in my career was to assist to the way an idea could develop, to its whole process -- from its origin to the launch of the final product!

The human aspect of my daily work has also been a major drive in my career; working with passionate people has always been stimulating! All those collaborations have been contributing to make my professional journey thrilling!


What are your key areas of expertise?

Soft Matter and related formulations are my main areas of expertise: they are like a common language we use in order to understand the properties of complex liquids that are found in a series of everyday applications such as shampoos, paints, etc. The challenge of this science is to understand the different components of a liquid formulation in order to make them co-exist and that each one of them makes its own specific contribution to the final properties desired. This is where my expertise comes into play: there are a great many complex steps connecting the properties of the initial molecule to those of the final product. So this expertise is key for the Group as it applies to various market segments such as coatings, oil & gas, mining, industrial formulations, agro, home & personal care, etc.


Do you think it is important to collaborate with other top senior scientists?

We senior scientists are some kind of proponents of creativity: it means that we are always working on the creation of new options for the Group by brainstorming, exchanging ideas, and imagining innovative, step-change projects -- and doing so from scratch. Promoting innovation is an incredibly stimulating job for a scientist!