Chang Chen, who received his doctorate from KU Leuven in Belgium, was selected by an international judging committee, chaired by DSM Chief Technology Officer Marcel Wubbolts. Dr. Chen’s research successfully combines the strengths of two powerful technologies, Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS) and nanopore fluidics, to develop a novel method allowing direct and rapid identification of DNA base molecules down to the single molecule level, which can be a very promising new sequencing technology. The application potential of the winning research extends to many fields, including food and pharmaceutical sciences, and may prove to be an important step towards true personalized medicine. As the winner of the first prize, Chang Chen will receive a cash prize of €10,000.
Second prize (€5,000) was awarded to Richard Stevens of the University of Twente (Netherlands) for his PhD thesis 'Rayleigh-Bénard turbulence'. Third prize (€2,500) was awarded to Veerle Bieghs of Maastricht University (Netherlands) for her PhD thesis 'Kupffer cells in fatty liver disease: does size really matter?'. The other six finalists (see list below) will each receive a cash prize of € 1,250.
The winners were announced at a dedicated event held at Bilderberg Kasteel Vaalsbroek in Vaals (Netherlands) on June 12, with the awards being presented by Dr. Rob van Leen, Chief Innovation Officer of DSM. Dr. Van Leen: “DSM has a long tradition of honoring PhD researchers who are working at the cutting edge of science, because these are the people who are setting the stage for tomorrow’s innovations.”
The judging committee’s report
In its report, the judging committee commended the high quality of the work of all the finalists. About its selection of Dr. Chen as first-prize winner, the committee said that the most striking aspect of his research is that it has made an important original contribution in bringing SERS application one big step forward, thereby not only attracting academic attention but also gaining significant industrial interest: 'The application potential of nanopore SERS technology goes far beyond genome detection and sequencing, and its generality has relevance to broad fields of trace molecule analysis, covering food science and pharmaceutical science'.
The winners of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes
First prize: Chang Chen, who conducted his research at the Imec research institute (Belgium) and the Department of Chemistry at KU Leuven (Belgium) under the supervision of Prof. Gustaaf Borghs and Prof. Guido Maes. Thesis title: 'Plasmonic nanopores for direct molecular identification'.
Second prize: Richard Stevens, who conducted his research at the Department of Applied Physics, University of Twente (Netherlands), under the supervision of Prof. D. Lohse. Thesis title: 'Rayleigh-Bénard turbulence'.
Third prize: Veerle Bieghs, who conducted her research at the Department of Molecular Genetics, Maastricht University (Netherlands), under the supervision of Prof. A. Schols and Dr. R. Shiri-Sverdlov. Thesis title: 'Kupffer cells in fatty liver disease: does size really matter?'.
The other six prize-winners are:
Christian Eidamshaus – Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Freie Universität Berlin (Germany). Supervisor: Prof. H.-U. Reissig. PhD thesis title: 'Synthesis of Highly Substituted, Enantiopure Pyridine and of 4-Quinolone Derivatives and their Applications in Asymmetric Catalysis – Synthesis of Multivalent Pyridine Derivatives'
Michaël Maes – Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis, KU Leuven (Belgium). Supervisor: Prof. Dr.-Ing. D. De Vos. PhD thesis title: 'Adsorptive Separations on Metal-Organic Frameworks'
Liliana Moreira Teixeira – Department of Tissue Regeneration, University of Twente (Netherlands). Supervisor: Prof. M. Karperien. PhD thesis title: 'Injectable hydrogels of cartilaginous matrix mimics'
An Philippaerts – Department of Microbial and Molecular Systems, KU Leuven (Belgium). Supervisor: Prof. P.A. Jacobs and Prof. B. Sels. PhD thesis title: 'Selective conversions of oleochemicals via heterogeneous catalysis'
Ioana Slabu – Department of Applied Medical Engineering/Physics Institute, RWTH Aachen University (Germany). Supervisor: Prof. G. Güntherodt. PhD thesis title: 'Superparamagnetic Iron Oxides in Medical Diagnostics and Therapy: MR-Visible Implants for Hernia Repair and Novel Drug Targeting Models'
Anna Voll – Aachener Verfahrenstechnik – Process Systems Engineering, RWTH Aachen University (Germany). Supervisor: Prof. W. Marquardt. PhD thesis title: 'Model-based screening of reaction pathways for biorenewables processing'
Two parallel awards schemes
The DSM Science & Technology Awards (North) are part of the DSM Bright Science Awards Program. They are awarded for outstanding PhD research conducted by doctoral students from two European regions: the North region comprising the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern Germany and the South region comprising Switzerland, Austria, Northern France and Southern Germany. Over the years, they have gained a high reputation in academic circles and the contest is a major event on the international calendar.