Researchers Ruth Pöttgen (left), Lund University, and Marianne Liebi (right), Chalmers, get L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Award 2018, supported by Young Academy Sweden. Photo Emma Burendahl
L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Prize is awarded in Sweden for the third time. The purpose of the prize is to pay attention to and reward young women who have shown great potential in science, while offering positive female role-models. Researchers Marianne Liebi, Chalmers, and Ruth Pöttgen, Lund University, get L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Award, supported by Sweden’s young academy 2018.
Marianne Liebi gets the award “for the constructive use of advanced imaging methods for biomaterials with the aim of understanding the connection between molecular and mechanical properties”. Marianne Liebi uses powerful X-ray technology to study how, for example, the smallest building blocks, collagen fibrils, the bone tissue, look and are organised. The goal is to develop a mimicking, biomimetic material, where nature’s own design principles are imitated and applied to develop artificial bone and cartilage.
“It’s important to show that in research, it does not matter where you come from or who you are – what matters is passion and dedication. At best, this kind of award will not be needed in the future, it would be aimed at all young researchers. It would not matter who you were, says Marianne Liebi.
Marianne Liebi, Assistant Professor in Condensed Matter Physics at the Department of Physics, Chalmers University of Technology was born 1984 and took her PhD in Food and Materials Science 2013 at Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland.
Today’s X-ray imaging methods used in research go far beyond from what is possible in a conventional radiography or CT used in hospitals. Using the very bright X-ray beam, as produced by the Swedish national synchrotron radiation facility MAX IV in Lund, one can for example visualise how tiny fibers, thousand times finer than a human hair, are organised in biological or artificial materials. Marianne Liebi and her collaborators have developed a method that allows such studies in intact three-dimensional samples. Human bone for instance is made of such tiny fibers, so called collagen fibrils. One major feature of these fibers is that they are ordered and aligned differently depending on the part of the bone where they are found, thereby determining the local mechanical stability. Together with different bone experts, Marianne Liebi applies this method to characterise bone in embryonic development or around implants that slowly degrade while new bone material is being formed. The method will be key in a project to develop a biomimetic material, which uses design principles from nature to create artificial bone and cartilage. 3D printing is used to introduce similar alignment of the artificial fibers as found in the collagen fibrils within bone in order to create a material with similar mechanical properties.
Marianne Liebi is Assistant Professor in Materials Science in the Department of Physics at Chalmers University of Technology, since August 2017. Before that, she worked as a scientist at the Swedish synchrotron MAX IV Laboratory, to which she remains affiliated. The focus of her research is in the development of advanced X-ray imaging techniques and their application towards materials with hierarchical structures. With a background in food science, she started using large-scale facilities for the characterisation of materials during her PhD. As a postdoc working at the Swiss synchrotron (Paul Scherrer Institute), she started working on method development in X-ray scattering and imaging.
About the price
L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Award, supported by Young Academy Sweden, rewards two women in the beginning of their research career. They get the prize for their scientific merits and to promote their continued development towards becoming independent researchers. The prize money of SEK 150,000 each is awarded to researchers at a Swedish university, who completed their PhD up to four years ago. The laureates are also offered a one-year mentorship program within the Young Academy Sweden.
The international edition of L’Oréal-Unesco For Women in Science Awards celebrates 20 years this year, which is highlighted in Paris on March 20-23. The prize was instituted by the L’Oréal Foundation and Unesco in 1998 to promote women’s participation in research. National programs exist in over 50 countries, of which Sweden is one. The laureates can then be nominated on to another level, the International For Women in Science Rising Talents.