After moving from Italy and then to London, Luca Bufano chose the Bordeaux region to pursue his scientific career as an Applications R&D Technician. In this interview, he looks back on his past experiences and share new challenges at Carbon Waters and his vision of the startup’s future.
I see you’re from Italy, have you moved to France recently?
Luca Bufano: Yes, I’m Italian, from Padua, a small town close to Venice. I graduated at the University of Padua as an industrial chemist before joining the R&D group of Mérieux NutriSciences in Treviso, Italy . After that, I lived for a time in England, in London, and I arrived In France just a few months ago.
Could you tell us what were your missions at Mérieux?
LB: Of course. As my first job, it was where I built my foundation in Analytical Chemistry. Mérieux works on chemical analysis and consultations on different matrixes such as food, pharma, cosmetics, and the environment. For my part, I mostly worked in the food section for big companies, such as Nestlé, aiming to develop analytical methods to qualify and/or quantify organic molecules contained in client`s products to make them respect the food regulations in EU. I learned how to work with mass spectrometry and spectroscopy and how to build an efficacy sample prep, treatment, and purification.
That sounds stimulating!
LB: It was indeed, but after almost three years, I needed a change of air and wanted to get an experience abroad. That’s why I decided to leave my country and go to the UK.
After half a year of experience in a firm dedicated to the agrochemistry field, I joined Synthomer as a material characterization scientist. Joining a company working on polymers was a challenge that I was happy to accept. It was something new for me at the time, but I was not scared because my knowledge of Analytical Chemistry could also have been useful over there.
In Synthomer I learned the science of polymers, from top to bottom. I worked in the R&D department; our research group had to analyze the client’s material and see how to improve it i.e., replacing a molecule with another. I was using different characterization methods such as DSC, TGA or GPC to understand the nature of polymers. After almost two years and a promotion to senior scientist, I decided to change again, my curiosity was still hungry!
So what has been your next challenge?
LB: In the summer of 2022, I entered as a Scientist in Pharmaron, a contract research organization that works for big pharma to provide synthetic routes and analytical consultation on different biomolecules. My curiosity to work within the Pharmaceutical Industry, another new challenge, made me join the company.
As a scientist dedicated to the Big Pharma, my role was to support with targeted analysis and the aid of NMR, HPLC-UV/Vis, GC-MS, and exact mass determination experiments on the QTof, the fate and purity of the synthetic routes developed by the organic chemist’s team for the client.
In Pharmaron I empowered my knowledge of chromatography to a deeper and more detailed level, however inside me, I was feeling the wind of change again…
Let us guess, your next destination was France?
LB: Correct! I had the will to leave London and come back to Europe. But, I must confess, it was more due to the fact I fell in love with someone from Cognac, near Bordeaux. Love is the real fire of our lives… (laughs)
What did you like about Carbon Waters that made you want to join the company?
LB: What drew my attention most in this opportunity is the fact Carbon Waters is unusual as it works on a very innovative subject: the science of graphene. As a chemist, you know that graphene exists but that’s it. Carbon Waters is one of the pioneers to understand the material and master its potential to make products out of it. That was a blast for me, so I told myself: let’s go.
Moreover, I’m happy to be committed to a company that really cares about the environment and optimizes its process to minimize, as much as possible, the impact of its final products. It is something crucial when you are doing business nowadays and I am so happy to see that the startup is committed to that.
The good choice to come here has been also confirmed by the people I meet every day: they have great knowledge of graphene and in their area of expertise (polymers, coatings, process…). Everyone is a good listener, and you can be listened too as well. Your opinion counts as the other one. That’s one of the good things about startups.
What more can you tell us about this “startup spirit”?
LB: At Carbon Waters I noticed that everyone is working together, to reach the summit. It is a step that requires time: planning and measuring what you can and you can’t do. There is a real need for the solutions we are making at Carbon Waters, so I see a “rosy future”, which in English means “bright future” for the company.
I’m very optimistic about the startup’s future and I’m very happy to be in the primary steps, as it is different from the other companies (big groups) I worked in before. It’s great to be part of the transformation of a startup.
And what about your missions in that new position?
LB: I’m a R&D technician and work with both Thomas and Lucie. Our aim, day by day, is to improve the in-house methods that produce our graphene-based additives to make them more stable and manageable if for example the initial charge of graphene is increased. We also make sure of the compatibility of graphene with our clients’ materials or matrix by conducting different tests and analyses, especially to guarantee the final product stability.
We also test the final products and evaluate their behavior with time using characterization methods, such as rheology, UV-Vis analysis, FTIR or pH analysis. These methods are similar to the ones I used in my previous experience, which helped a lot at the very beginning.
I’m glad to be working in R&D in the lab again, I feel like an investigator, using all the tools at my disposal to make discoveries, this is so great!
We can feel the passion for your job there! And on a more personal note, what do you like to?
LB: As you may have noticed, I am a very curious person. If I hadn’t be working in R&D I probably would have been a journalist! I have a passion about philosophy, art and literature. I can spend hours visiting churches, museums, or historical places. For example, if I go on a trip with my friends, they will only allow me a couple of hours to visit what I want, otherwise I wouldn’t be spending enough time with them (laughs).
I also love reading, especially novels of the 20th century. My favorite authors are Hemingway, Camus, Steinbeck, or Antonio Tabucchi, to name a few.
I do sport too, I like running, love swimming, and adore basketball, which I played for 15 years. I’m actually planning to join a team, but when the weather gets better (laughs).
Thanks for sharing all that! Would you have any last word?
LB: It can sound sickly sweet, but I am thankful to the one who believed in me the first time and made possible my moving here.
Finding a job in France when you don’t know French is very difficult and I really thank Carbon Waters for giving me this opportunity. Now my next challenge is to learn French, I cannot wait to make jokes everyone will understand (laughs).
Grazie e ciao vecci!