The PhD thesis was supervised by Anna Roig and Anna Laromaine, from the NN group at ICMAB-CSIC. The PhD Committee that evaluated the Thesis was formed by Carmen Sofia da Rocha Freire Barros, Univeristy of Aveiro, Portugal (President), Ricardo Pedro Casaroli Marano, Universitat de Barcelona (UB) (Secretary), and Aldo Ferrari, ETH Zürich, Switzerland (Vocal).
Irene Anton’s PhD thesis was part of the PhD Programme in Materials Science from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).
Irene Anton's PhD defense. In the screen: Carmen Sofia da Rocha Freire Barros and Aldo Ferrari. Standing, left to right, Anna Roig, Irene Anton, Ricardo Pedro Casaroli Marano and Anna Laromaine
Why did you choose the ICMAB for your PhD?
It was kind of a coincidence ending up doing my PhD thesis in ICMAB. I was doing my master thesis in the Vall d’Hebron Hospital when I was asked to perform some experiments in the N&N group that were their collaborators and I met my supervisor Anna Roig. After that, there were some very timely PhD positions offered in ICMAB and I just decided to take the opportunity!
How would you explain your research to a non-scientific audience?
Our main ambition has been to find uses of an emerging biomaterial that we produce in the lab upon a simple process based on bacterial fermentation. This biomaterial is made only of nanocellulose (cellulose fibres of nanometric diameter) and water and has many attributes that can be useful in the biomedical field.
What are the main applications of your research? Could you give us an example?
We have tried from the very beginning to do applied research. The directions that we have been mostly working on are the use of bacterial nanocellulose as a support to culture, and -hopefully in the future- transplant cells; its use as a corneal bandage to heal ocular surface damage and the use as an anti-adhesive patch in abdominal hernia treatment.
From the lessons learnt here, which one do you value the most?
I think that the PhD has shown me to be self-sufficient and not to be afraid of taking “bad” decisions.
What will you miss the most from ICMAB?
I will miss the friendly multidisciplinary and international atmosphere… it has been very nice to meet such diverse people during these years.
How do you think this experience will contribute to your training and your future?
During my thesis, I have used many different techniques, from material’s characterization and microscopy to cell culture and preclinical models. It has been very instructive to transit between different disciplines and I think this will be useful throughout my future career. In addition, I have gained transversal skills such as resilience, communication…
What are your plans once you finish your PhD?
I would like to take a few months long break to rest, travel… but we will have to see how the pandemic evolves!
What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your PhD, that now you can recommend to the ones who are starting?
Probably, to establish priorities. Some experiments are “critical”, others are “complementary”, and at the beginning, this was not so clear to me.
Why did you become a scientist? Which have been your role models?
I am not sure about that, it just happened! I have always liked nature and biology and this might have had an influence.
Which is your favourite female scientist? And why?
I do not have a favourite female scientist... there are many brilliant female (and also male) scientists!
Describe in 3 keywords…
- Your research: biomaterials, applications, healthcare
- Barcelona: home, sunny, diverse
- Your experience at ICMAB: enriching, transversal, positive