Robert Pullar
Chemical foundations of technology

Tell us about your academic path.
I was not a good student when it came to just studying, but I always enjoyed research projects from my bachelor's degree onwards. After graduating in chemistry, I did a Master's degree to continue with research, but I was not able to find funding for a PhD because my degree was not good enough. I didn't give up and started working as a research assistant at the University of Warwick, which soon became a postdoc equivalent position (without a PhD!), and got a part-time PhD while I worked. I then had two postdoc positions in London for 8 years at London South Bank University and Imperial College, before winning a Marie Curie Fellowship in Greece. I then became a Principal Researcher at the University of Aveiro in Portugal, eventually becoming equivalent to Associate Professor, before being hired as an Associate Professor at Ca' Foscari in the autumn of last year.

What has given you the greatest satisfaction in your career?
I really enjoy the creative and problem-solving side of research, finding it motivating and intellectually challenging, rather than frustrating or annoying.

What are you most passionate about in your research?
I try to work in areas that I personally find interesting or useful for society and humanity, such as 'green chemistry' and the exploitation of natural and sustainable materials, and the use/recycling of waste materials - a very important aspect that we need to develop in our society and technology.

Have you always known that this was going to be your path?
For me, university was a choice between Chemistry, Ceramic Art or History. I don't regret choosing Chemistry, but I am still very interested in history (especially social, political, economic history), and I still make artistic ceramics when I get the chance, as well as working in ceramic materials at work, for scientific reasons.

Can you offer any advice to researchers in the early stages of their career?
The most important thing for a researcher is curiosity: knowing that something works is not enough, you want to know why and how that something can be improved or changed. You also have to be able to solve problems, be patient and consistent. First attempts don't always work, but you have to understand why and find a solution. It is a creative process.

Last update: 22/06/2022