Gustau Catalán graduated in Physics at the Universitat de Barcelona (1997) and gained his PhD, also in Physics, at the Queen's University of Belfast (2001). This was followed by a one-year round-the-world climbing expedition, the highlights of which were the setting up of a new route in the Dogon country of Mali ("The man with no name", 6c-250 metres, Ouro N'guérou) and the first ascent of a peak in the Indian Himalayas (Draoich Parvat, 6200m, Garwhal). Upon returning to research, he has been a scientist at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (2002-2004), at the University of Groningen (2004-2005) and at the University of Cambridge (2005-2009). He joined ICREA in 2009 as a Research Professor and leader of the Oxide Nanophysics group at the Institut Català de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia (ICN2). His research centres on the physics of materials at the nanoscale.
A common denominator of my work is the search for original physics and emerging effects at the nanoscale. Recently, most of my research has focused on the effects of strain gradients on electrical polarization (a phenomenon known as flexoelectricity); the European Research Council (ERC) has funded me to set up in Barcelona the world's first specialized laboratory dedicated to this phenomenon. Prominent discoveries in this area have been the giant flexoelectricity of semiconductors, and the existence of flexoelectricity in bones, where the effect is thought to play a physiological role in bone repair. In parallel, I have also worked on other nanoscale phenomena, mostly to do with ferroelectric oxides: the physics of domain walls (domain wall nanoelectronics), antiferroelectricity and giant photovoltaic effects in polar materials.