The PhD thesis was supervised by Anna Roig and Martí Gich, from the Nanoparticles and Nanocomposites (NN) Group at ICMAB-CSIC. The PhD Committee that evaluated the Thesis was formed by Marianne Impéror, Université Paris Saclay, France (President), Gregori Casals Mercadal, Hospital Clínic, Spain (Secretary), and Ana Espinosa de los Monteros Royo, IMDEA Nanociencia, Spain (Vocal).
Jan Grzelak’s PhD thesis was part of the PhD Programme in Materials Science from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB).
From left to right: Martí Gich, Ana Espinosa de los Monteros Royo, Anna Roig, Jan Grzelak, Marianne Impéror, Gregori Casals Mercadal
Why did you choose the ICMAB for your PhD?
My adventure with ICMAB started when I was doing an Erasmus stay in Barcelona during my Master. I found the group of Nanoparticles & Nanocomposites online and I was very interested in their research. While carrying out the Master project at N&N Group, I found out about the possibility to apply for a “la Caixa” Foundation fellowship to do a doctoral project at the group. I really liked working at ICMAB, its technical facilities and the friendly atmosphere. The project offered by the N&N group was very interesting so I applied for the fellowship and I got it.
How would you explain your research to a non-scientific audience?
I have been working on very small materials that could be potentially used in facilitating the diagnosis and treatment of liver diseases. The particles would be injected into the body and accumulate in the liver. The material has a lot of tiny channels and a large surface area which makes it possible to modify it with other materials that let it perform specific functions, for example magnetic particles that can increase the contrast in magnetic resonance imaging or fluorescent molecules that emit light, facilitating the observation of the diseased site. The particles have a rod-like shape, which can be important for their performance in the organism. So far, mostly spherical particles made of this material have been studied in biomedical applications and that is why we chose to study rods.
What are the main applications of your research? Could you give us an example?
The application that this research could have in the future is the use of the materials as agents for the diagnosis and therapy of liver diseases.
From the lessons learnt here, which one do you value the most?
Patience and perseverance are incredibly important in science. If an experiment fails, even multiple times, it is normal. You should not let it bring you down. I had been depressed and feeling like an impostor for a long time because I have not been getting good results in my research. I realized (quite late) that many people have the same problem and that it is a normal thing in research. Keep doing the good work and the results will come. And negative results are also results.
What will you miss the most from ICMAB?
The people and friendly atmosphere. I have made many friends here and I hope we will stay in touch after my PhD.
How do you think this experience will contribute to your training and to your future?
I feel that during my PhD I have learnt a lot and developed as a scientist and as a person. I have undergone technical training in the facilities of ICMAB and other centres. I have also improved my ability to conduct research, analyze results, plan the experiments and organize my work, as well as to present my research, collaborate with other scientists... There are so many things that I have learnt and I am sure that they will prove useful in my future career.
What are your plans once you finish your PhD?
I am going to look for a postdoctoral position in the field of nanomedicine.
What do you wish you had known at the beginning of your PhD, that now you can recommend to the ones who are starting?
Start writing the thesis as soon as possible. It will save you time and help organize your work in a better way.
Why did you become a scientist? Which have been your role models?
I have been fascinated by the nano world and the countless possibilities it offers. At some point I thought about studying medicine but I realized that it is not for me. However, I can contribute to medicine by working on nanomaterials for biomedical applications. A role model in the field of medicine is my father who is a medical doctor and is extremely hard-working and dedicated.
Who is your favourite female scientist? And why?
Maria Skłodowska-Curie. She was an incredible scientist and the first person ever to win two Nobel prizes in two distinct scientific fields. She was also Polish!
Describe in 3 keywords…
- Your research: mesoporous silica, nanorods, nanomedicine
- Barcelona: beautiful, inspiring, home
- Your experience at ICMAB: educative, friendly, enriching
To all my ICMAB friends: Keep up the good work! I will miss you all.