Nathalie Katsonis received her MSc (2001) and PhD (2004) degrees from the University Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris, France). Her investigations of the interplay between motion, light and molecular machines started in the group of Ludovic Jullien, where she synthesized an analogue of the chromophore that initiates the flagellar movement of purple bacteria, and studied its photochemistry. For her postdoctoral research she moved to the group of Ben Feringa to investigate chirality and order in supramolecular assemblies.

Credit: Nathalie Katsonis

Her independent career started in 2007 as Associate Researcher for the French National Center for Scientific Research. In 2008 she was invited back to Groningen to work with Feringa on artificial molecular motors and switches. In 2011 she took up a tenure-track position at the MESA + Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Twente (the Netherlands), where she was promoted to Associate Professor in 2014 and to Full Professor in ‘Bio-inspired and Smart Materials’ in 2017. In March 2020 she joined the Stratingh Institute of Chemistry of the University of Groningen (the Netherlands), as Professor of chemistry, founding the group ‘Active Molecular Systems and Materials’.

Katsonis has led the way in transmitting directed molecular motion across length scales, with a special focus on the role of chirality and on the effects of mechanically relevant motion of molecular machines. She has recently developed an interest in the motion of supramolecular compartments in fluids. A central objective of this program is to create droplets, vesicles, and other microcompartments that can move autonomously by using metabolic energy. Her achievements have provided the underpinnings for increasingly complex functionalities in dynamic and ultimately life-like supramolecular materials.

This interview was conducted by the editors of Communications Chemistry.