There were multiple factors that drew Cecile Chazot to the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (MSE) at Northwestern Engineering.
Formerly a PhD student at MIT, Chazot recognized the talent of the student body. She also noticed the collegial atmosphere within MSE, and crucially, how well the McCormick School of Engineering collaborates with other schools around the University. Chazot cited the strong working relationship with the Feinberg School of Medicine and even the emphasis on art and using both sides of the brain as elements that excited her about Northwestern.
“I was very interested in doing outreach to communicate the research I do to a broad audience,” Chazot said. “It was very important to have this intersection with non-engineering related disciplines. As soon as you’re interested in thinking about how what you create impacts society, or how it becomes broadly applicable at larger scale, it’s really important that researchers from different disciplines can work together to solve problems and figure out how to help the most people.”
Chazot will get that opportunity in January when she joins the faculty as the Julia Weertman Professor in Materials Science and Engineering. At Northwestern, Chazot will study sustainable textile manufacturing, thinking about how the production of materials can change to be more environmentally friendly. As an MSE faculty member, Chazot expects to investigate making currently unrecyclable products recyclable, increasing their usage while decreasing their toll on the planet.
From a teaching perspective, Chazot wants to break down walls between scientists based on which materials they study. Instead of promoting teaching methods specific to semiconductors or metals or polymers, Chazot hopes to find “material agnostic” ways of teaching the fundamental principles of materials science and engineering.
“It’s this idea of introducing the concepts of our field with a lens that is more inclusive, both in terms of the materials you think about and in how you teach it for everyone to understand,” Chazot said.
That attitude isn’t a surprise after learning about Chazot’s background. Born and raised in the countryside in France, Chazot studied at École des Mines de Paris before earning her PhD at MIT. She also was a visiting researcher at Cambridge University and had an engineering internship at Bosch in Germany, meaning she’s been exposed to four nations’ work cultures that share some similarities but are distinct from each other.
Those experiences have informed Chazot’s career and views on mixing different disciplines for a common goal.
“To echo Dean Julio M. Ottino’s words, a certain discipline is only a pair of glasses you see the world through, and having someone who has a different pair of glasses and looks at it differently can really bring up new perspectives,” Chazot said. “That can raise your scientific contribution to a whole new level for everyone involved.”