Award-winningPublikationsdatum15.11.2019

Best thesis prize goes to NCCR graduate


NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials graduate Dr. Céline Calvino has been awarded the 2019 Chorafas Prize for the best doctoral thesis in natural sciences at the University of Fribourg. Calvino completed her PhD thesis on “Mechanochromic Materials Based on Non-Covalent Interactions” as a member of NCCR Principal Investigator Prof. Christoph Weder’s Polymer Chemistry and Materials group at the Adolphe Merkle Institute.

Her thesis, which she successfully defended last year, focused on the development of molecular motifs that change certain properties upon application of a mechanical force, so-called mechanophores, and on their incorporation into polymers with the goal to create new mechanoresponsive materials. In these materials, specific functions, such as a color change, can be triggered through mechanical force. This effect is fundamentally interesting, and practically useful, for example, to monitor ageing or imminent failure of load-bearing structures. During the course of her thesis work, Calvino synthesized new mechanophores, tested their response to various stimuli using a range of methods, integrated these motifs into polymers, and explored and exploited the stimuli-responsive nature of these materials. Calvino’s thesis work was previously recognized with the Swiss Nanotechnology PhD Award 2018 given by the Swiss Micro-and Nanotechnology Network.

Calvino completed her MSc in Chemistry at the University of Fribourg, with a focus in organic synthesis, polymer chemistry, and materials science. She is currently the beneficiary of a post-doctoral mobility grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation. This funding supports her research stay at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago, where she is investigating the functionalization of cellulose nanocrystals.

The Dimitris N. Chorafas Foundation awards scientific prizes for outstanding work in selected fields in the engineering sciences, medicine and the natural sciences. It rewards research characterized by its high potential for practical application and by the special significance attached to its possible future use.  Every year, partner universities in Europe, North America and Asia evaluate the research work of their graduating Ph.D. students and nominate the best for the award. The Foundation awards the prize, worth $5,000 (CHF 5,000), to the best doctoral student(s) at each partner university, of which there are three in Switzerland: the University of Fribourg, and the Federal Institutes of the Technology in Zurich and Lausanne (ETHZ and EPFL).