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Table 1. 
Date of birth:June 28, 1972
Position:Leader of the research unit “Functional Organic Materials” of the National Research Council of Italy (CNR)
E-mail:palermo@isof.cnr.it
Homepage:http://www.isof.cnr.it/?q=content/palermo-vincenzo
Education:1995 “Laurea” in Industrial Chemistry (equivalent to M.Sc.) with cum laude at the University of Bologna; 2003 Ph.D. with G. Ripamonti, University of Bologna; 2004 Research Fellow for the technology-transfer project “DINACOS“ between Regione Emilia Romagna and STMicroelectronics; 2004-2005 Postdoctoral research in the framework of European Project ”BIONICS“.
Awards2013: Research Award for emerging scientist of the Italian Society of Chemistry (SCI); 2012: Young Lecturer Award from the Federation of the European Material Societies (FEMS); 2006: 1st prize in materials science from the Italian Society for Microscopy Sciences (SISM).
Current research:Graphene Composites: Synthesis of grapheme–organic hybrids for optoelectronics and for energy storage, exploiting covalent and supramolecular functionalization of graphene. Supramolecular Chemistry: Self-assembly of supramolecular hierarchical architectures based on organic semiconductors for energy conversion and microelectronics applications. Nanoscale Electrical Characterization: Quantitative measurement and mapping of charge generation and transport at the nanoscale using Kelvin probe microscopy.
Interests:Travelling, swimming, reading novels (sometimes also writing them).

The secret of being a successful scientist is … to never fall in love with your own results, and keep an open mind.

During my PhD I always dreamt of … setting up my own research projects, becoming a full time scientist, travel around the world to present my results and winning a Nobel Prize (this last part still needs more work!).

The most exciting thing about my research is … that you can actually create something incredibly new and revolutionary with simple experiments and homemade set-ups.

What has been your biggest influence/motivation?

One of the most influential things that happened to me was working with Paolo Samorì. We were friends even before becoming colleagues, and together we set up the first studies on electrical characterization at the nanoscale by playing with many different types of supramolecular materials. No matter how creative one is as an individual, talking openly with a colleague will give you new ideas and a different perspective of your work.

How was your research enhanced by taking a multidisciplinary approach?

To be competitive, you should be the best in using a given technique or producing a certain type of molecule. However, this approach favors the creation of narrow, self-sustaining scientific communities focused on restricted topics. To avoid this pitfall I always try to attend curiosity-driven, interdisciplinary conference talks not directly related my work. In fact, such a talk given by Andre Geim on the physics of graphene inspired me to study this material with a more chemical approach. Thanks to that choice I am actually leading several national and international projects on graphene, including the recently launched Graphene Flagship European initiative.

What are the main challenges for the broad area of your research?

I study graphene, which is a material that has created high expectations in recent years. Many groups working in academia and industry are studying its application in different fields, such as electronics, energy storage, composites, and biomedical applications. The main challenge is to find the best ways to produce graphene in a controlled way and to find the exciting applications for it while at the same time avoiding excessive hype. Graphene could become a revolutionary material, however, it still cannot replace silicon or steel (despite what popular journals say). As scientists, we should be clever enough to exploit the new possibilities offered by graphene and other two-dimensional materials, and at the same time humble enough to avoid creating false expectations.

My three top papers:

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  2. My three top papers:

  • 1
    “Macromolecular Scaffolding: The Relationship between Nanoscale Architecture and Function in Multichromophoric Arrays for Organic Electronics”: Adv. Mater. 2010, 22, E81. (A comprehensive description of our studies on hybrid materials made of polymers and small molecules as multiscale, hierarchical architectures for organic electronics and photovoltaics.)
  • 2
    “High-Contrast Visualization of Graphene Oxide on Dye-Sensitized Glass, Quartz, and Silicon by Fluorescence Quenching”: J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009, 131, 15576. (The first use of organic molecules to detect and study graphene sheets, making them optically visible on arbitrary substrates.)
  • 3
    “Electronic characterization of organic thin films by Kelvin probe force microscopy”: Adv. Mater. 2006, 18, 145 (A review of the first applications of Kelvin probe force microscopy to characterize organic electronics materials at the nanoscale.)