An image of Professor Sandrine Heutz

Professor Sandrine Heutz is a professor of Functional Molecular Materials. In 2020, Sandrine took on the position of Director of Facilities at the Department of Materials and co-Director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology.

Can you tell us about the current focus of your research? 

The group focuses on functional molecular films and nanostructures for optoelectronic and spintronic applications. This year has been fun as we have had a chance to delve more deeply into the data analysis and to work out mechanisms for why spins behave in a certain way. We are lucky that we managed to acquire a lot of data just before lockdown, including at the Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, and this has given us plenty of food for thought, as well as spurred further collaborations with synchrotrons across the world. This means we are on the verge of having answers to questions that we have had for almost a decade, which is very exciting – and stimulating new research avenues.

What was your proudest achievement this year?

I am so proud of my research group for staying engaged in the research and in supporting each other even though we were mostly communicating online. We stayed connected or reconnected with alumni, which made for very vibrant and stimulating conversations! 

I am proud that we used this special situation to look for opportunities rather than staying stuck on what was taken away. This is not at really my achievement, but I am proud of my group’s resilience and creativity and very happy to have played a part.

What was your biggest challenge this year? 

Where do I start?! On the professional level, one big challenge was starting my role as the co-director of the London Centre for Nanotechnology right at the beginning of the lockdown. I had looked forward to setting up some activities and events that really relied on in-person interactions and it was difficult to adapt quickly. But we still managed to set up new initiatives, and some new online formats have enabled broader participation and can be used as resources in the future. I still very much look forward to celebrating all these inputs and thanking our LCN online contributors in person as soon as we can!

What does Women at Imperial week mean to you? 

It is a week to celebrate the achievements of women and to showcase all the great work done by our diverse community. Hopefully, this will inspire other women to join and to feel empowered to go into STEM careers. Seeing all the brilliant women in my department when I was looking for an academic position was a really big draw to taking up the position. But beyond women, this is a time to reflect on how we can increase the diversity of our community, to see how we can create a more inclusive environment where different needs and working modes are accommodated and enable everyone to thrive. I think this year with all its practical challenges gives us a chance to really open our eyes to different perspectives and move forward in a more inclusive way.