ESR4: Episode One

When I started my SENTINEL journey moving from Italy to Germany, I thought of this as a new challenge for me – a new step in my academic growth, a new country to live in, a number of old friends to say goodbye to but new ones to meet and get to know. When I recall that I was one of the first to join the programme I am totally astonished. I can’t believe time flies so fast!

I would describe my time in Bochum as a huge pot of experiences. My new colleagues are now my friends, and what was my new apartment is my home now, filled with great memories! The journey up to now has had lots to offer. My background studies focused on physics and surface science, so for me one of the best rewards has been discovering a completely new field -Electrochemistry.

The goal of my research at the Ruhr University Bochum is to exploit the new, amazing properties that matter exhibits at the nanoscale to discover new active materials for electrocatalysis. Matter at the nanoscale is not only fascinating but also picky and tricky. Whenever a nanoparticle interacts with something different you can expect its behaviour and properties to dramatically change! My goal within SENTINEL is to track the behaviour of these nano-entities by carefully reading and interpreting extremely small current signals that change when solvated particles with different properties hit a target electrode. From the nanoscopic impacts, it is possible to access important parameters of the nanoparticle activity, dimension, and concentration without the need to ‘glue’ (and therefore probably change) these nanoparticles on a support.

The task is still far from easy. Firstly, I had to understand from scratch the basis of established electrochemical technologies and now that I have moved to more complex nanoparticle impact experiments I’m still in the process of learning. The amount of possible interconnected effects that can alter results and that I should consider never stops to amaze me. Fortunately, my colleagues at the Electrochemistry & Nanoscale Materials group are a huge help! Also thanks to the SENTINEL programme, I will have plenty of other unique opportunities to learn more about electrochemistry and investigations at the nanoscale in the future.

Our first 5 day meeting in February was fantastic. My international ESR colleagues and all our supervisors are both great scientists and great people. The group immediately built a strong connection and I am sure that my experience as a SENTINEL Early Stage Researcher will boost not only my academic growth but also my personal development.

The current COVID-19 situation is affecting everyone including us but we are doing our best to keep up with our great scientific work from home – I am looking forward to new exciting science in a growing scientific community!

Manuel Corva

Find out more about Manuel Corva.