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.