Biointerphases is pleased to feature this In Focus issue on Women in Biointerface Science. The contributions selected for this issue demonstrate recent advances toward understanding the biointerface, and as a grouping, give visibility to the impactful work being done by women leaders in this community. Through this In Focus issue, we hope to inspire those interested in the field and encourage the next generation of women researchers. We showcase strong scientific research making strides toward addressing significant medical issues and improving human health, especially through the quantitative analysis and understanding of biointerface science.

All publications in this issue are anchored by female principal investigators. In addition to technical advances, the principal investigators share advice toward success in science and their career experiences. As a team, we have been inspired by the diversity of the careers and paths of each of our featured researchers, and in the range of activities they take on as part of their fulfilling lives. In this editorial, we share highlights of the personal side of the principal investigators (please see our full editorial online to read their full biographies). For further insight into their technical contribution, please access their individual publications in this issue.

We also are pleased to share our unique situation as Editors of Biointerphases. For the past two years, the three of us have partnered across three continents (North America, Europe, and Australia) to grow and strengthen this journal. We may have been the first and only scientific journal led by an all-female crew of Editors! It has been an exciting endeavor with plenty of late nights and early mornings, but with much satisfaction and many laughs. As the journal has transitioned, we have newly added diversity with our male counterpart, Associate Editor Stefan Zauscher.

We thank the women who have contributed to this issue and we look forward to continuing to highlight work from across our community. Please let us know your recommendations of women who should be invited to contribute to the ongoing development of this Biointerphases Collection. We encourage you to share this special editorial and In Focus issue with your colleagues of any discipline!

Katharina Maniura, Anna Belu, and Sally McArthur

Biointerphases Associate Editors and Editor

CAITLIN HOWELL

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering

University of Maine, USA

Tunability of liquid-infused silicone materials for biointerfaces

Irini Sotiri, Amanda Tajik, Yang Lai, Cathy T. Zhang, Yevgen Kovalenko, Carine R. Nemr, Haylea Ledoux, Jack Alvarenga, Edythe Johnson, Huseini S. Patanwala, Jaakko V. I. Timonen, Yuhang Hu, Joanna Aizenberg, and Caitlin Howell

Biointerphases13, 06D401 (2018)

MISSION: Create the next generation of materials that will save the world

INSPIRATION: Nature is breathtaking, and we are the people who get to work toward understanding it every day! While getting paid! What better job could there possibly be?

Caitlin Howell is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Maine. She began her career at the University of Maine, studying biology with a minor in mathematics and working in any research lab that would take her. After a brief experience as an ornithology field hand in the Maine woods—where the birds and ecology Ph.D. students were amazing but the bugs were most decidedly not—she landed in the lab of Professor Jody Jellison, a leader in the field of fungal wood decay. While proving herself through the enthusiastic washing of dirty glassware, she learned how to do real science from Dr. Jellison and her Ph.D. student at the time, Jonathan Schilling. But above all, she learned how something that may not be very glamorous on the surface (like wood decay) can be fascinating when you look closer and start wondering why and how. In her senior year, she received the Ron Cockcroft award from the International Research Group on Wood Protection to travel to Tromsø, Norway to share the results of her research with the international community, as well as an NSF Teaching Fellowship to share her newly-discovered passion for science with over 80 local middle school students each week.

After completing a Master’s degree using ever larger machines to look at ever smaller bits of decaying wood, Caitlin was very lucky to be introduced to Professor Michael Grunze of the University of Heidelberg in Germany. In his Applied Physical Chemistry group there, he created specifically defined surfaces using tricks of physics and chemistry, and then studied how those surfaces interacted with the world. She was thrilled when he invited her to come to Germany to earn her Ph.D., which was supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Over the next three years, she worked with Dr. Patrick Koelsch as well as Professor Michael Zharnikov, Dr. Dmitri Petrovykh, and many other talented chemists, physicists, and engineers to understand how biological molecules such as DNA organized themselves at interfaces. Although it was initially challenging both to live in a different country and learn to communicate with researchers in very different disciplines, it soon became clear that her colleagues were equally excited about uncovering the mysteries of Nature and how they could be used to accomplish specific goals. Through their kindness and willingness to take the time to break down the barriers between the fields, Caitlin’s colleagues worked with her to answer critical questions at the intersection of biology, chemistry, and physics that none of them could have answered alone. She finished her Ph.D. with 11 publications, 7 of which as first author, all contributing to the greater understanding of the organization and orientation biological molecules on abiotic surfaces.

Near the end of her Ph.D., Caitlin began to think about how amazing it was that people could take an understanding of Nature and using it to build new materials that could act in defined ways—otherwise known as engineering. This line of reasoning led her to Professor Joanna Aizenberg at Harvard University, who was working as part of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering where they looked to nature for breakthrough solutions to a wide variety of challenges. Joining as a postdoctoral researcher, Caitlin worked with Professor Aizenberg, senior Wyss scientist Michael Aizenberg, and a series of phenomenal collaborators, research assistants, and students to develop pitcher plant-inspired slippery surfaces for controlling the adhesion of biological materials to surfaces. After a year, she received a Wyss Technology Development Fellowship, which allowed her to not only continue to develop these specialized surfaces, but also to begin to work with companies on translating the technology to the market where it could begin to make a difference in people’s lives. Caitlin’s work with Professor Aizenberg and her team and collaborators at the Wyss Institute saw the development of self-replenishing vascularized polymers, slippery surfaces for releasing sheets of cells, as well as the first uses of liquid-infused materials in vivo to reduce blood clot formation, infection, and instrument fouling.

In 2016, Caitlin joined the Faculty back at the University of Maine. She founded her lab to combine the knowledge gained during her undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral work: building specialized surfaces and interfaces to control biological interactions. Together with her amazing students and academic as well as industrial partners, she continues to work toward understanding Nature, then using that knowledge to create the next generation of materials that will save the world. Although she continues to be regularly amazing at all the things she does not know, she has learned a few useful things in her relatively short career that help when things get tough:

  • 1.

    Although it may not always feel it, it helps to remember that we are incredibly lucky: the beauty and complexity of Nature is breathtaking, and we are the people who get to work toward understanding it every day! While getting paid! What better job could there possibly be?

  • 2.

    Nothing is better than equally enthusiastic, competent, and hardworking colleagues and collaborators. They are worth their weight in gold, so once you find them, do everything you can to keep them. Science is best as a team sport, and a good team makes all the difference.

  • 3.

    Science is hard—because if it were easy, someone else would have already done it. We are here because we have the capacity to create change, to discover and understand the world around us, and to use that knowledge to improve the lives of our community members as well as our environment. Given the magnitude of what we are trying to do, it is natural that turning that capacity into results is challenging. But saving the world is well worth the effort.

ALKE PETRI-FINK AND BARBARA ROTHEN-RUTISHAUSER

Joint Professors, Co-Chairs in BioNanomaterials

Adolphe Merkle Institute, Switzerland

Carbon nanodots: Opportunities and limitations to study their biodistribution at the human lung epithelial tissue barrier

Estelle Durantie, Hana Barosova, Barbara Drasler, Laura Rodriguez-Lorenzo, Dominic A. Urban, Dimitri Vanhecke, Dedy Septiadi, Liliane Hirschi-Ackermann, Alke Petri-Fink, and Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser

Biointerphases13, 06D404 (2018)

ROLE MODELS IN JOB SHARING: Joint Full Professorship

IMPACT: Two scientific competencies are combined—namely, cell biology and materials science—which gives new insights and opportunities into the field of research.

ADVICE: Find the right partner and commit to “together or not at all”

Barbara Rothen-Rutishauser has received her Ph.D. in 1996 in cell biology from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. From 1996 to 2000, she held a post-doctoral position in Biopharmacy at the Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the ETH and in 2000 she joined Prof. Peter Gehr’s research group at the University of Bern, Switzerland, as a postdoc. After promotion to group leader in 2006, she completed her habilitation in cell biology in 2009. Since 2011, she is the new Co-Chair in BioNanomaterials at the Adolphe Merkle Institute, University of Fribourg, Switzerland, the position is shared equally with Prof. Alke Petri-Fink. Prof. Rothen-Rutishauser has published more than 200 peer-reviewed papers and is an associate editor of the journal “Particle and Fibre Toxicology.” B. Rothen-Rutishauser is an expert in the field of cell-nanoparticle interactions in the lung, with a special focus on 3D lung cell models and various microscopy techniques such as laser scanning and transmission electron microscopy.

Alke Petri-Fink received her Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Ulm, Germany, in 1999. After a postdoctoral stay at the University of Gainesville, Florida, she joined the Institute of Materials Science at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), first as a postdoctoral researcher, then as a senior scientist. She became an Associate Swiss National Science Foundation Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Fribourg in 2009, and Full Professor in 2011 at the Adolphe Merkle Institute, Switzerland, as the Co-Chair in BioNanomaterials. Her research focuses on inorganic nanoparticles, their synthesis, surfaces, and interactions with biological cells.

Prof. Rothen-Rutishauser and Prof. Petri-Fink share a full professorship in BioNanomaterials. This opportunity has many benefits, such as shared responsibility for challenging leadership tasks and more time for the families. The job sharing also has the special feature that two scientific competencies are combined—namely cell biology and materials science—which gives new insights and opportunities into the field of research. Accordingly, the research group is also a colorful mixture of various scientific disciplines such as chemistry, material science, biochemistry, biology, physics, microscopy, hazard assessment, and environmental and food sciences. Such a constellation requires a lot of energy, open-mindedness, and respect for the other. Close cooperation and great trust of the two chairs in each other is a prerequisite for a successful job-sharing, but also the employees have to accept two supervisors and the colleagues in the Institute and the Faculty two minds—until now the reactions, acceptance, and experiences on this job-sharing model are without exception very positive.

What did it require to create such a special situation? First, it took some courage to apply together—according to the motto “together or not at all,” and fortunately the members of the search committee, the Faculty as well as the Rectorate in Fribourg where always positive and supportive. Second, the private environment was enormously encouraging and the advice “find the right partner” should also inspire younger researchers since this is highly relevant for an academic career.

ELLEN FISHER

Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives

Professor of Analytical, Physical, and Materials Chemistry

Colorado State University, USA

Perspectives on antibacterial performance of silver nanoparticle-loaded three-dimensional polymeric constructs

Michelle N. Mann and Ellen R. Fisher

Biointerphases13, 06E404 (2018)

MULTIDISCIPLINARY ADVOCATE: Keep your options (and your mind) open to enhance the possible

CAREER REWARD: Helping others realize their dreams and passions

Ellen Fisher is the Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives in the Office of the Vice President for Research at Colorado State University. She is also a Professor of Analytical, Physical, and Materials Chemistry and has served as Department Chair as well as the founding director of a cross-disciplinary initiative, the School of Advanced Materials Discovery (SAMD) from 2014 to 2018. Dr. Fisher received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Mathematics from Texas Lutheran University (formerly College) in 1986 (summa cum laude). After spending a summer internship performing metabolism studies on rats and mice, a few things became abundantly clear: (1) physical chemistry is much more enjoyable than collecting rodent feces; (2) chemistry really is the central science; and (3) to do the really fun stuff, a Ph.D. was probably required. After attending the University of Utah and receiving her Ph.D. in physical-analytical chemistry in 1991, she performed postdoctoral research at Sandia National Labs before joining the faculty at CSU in 1993. Dr. Fisher has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles spanning diverse topics in plasma science, laser spectroscopy, materials chemistry, chemistry education, and the responsible conduct of research. Dr. Fisher has graduated 19 Ph.D. and 6 M.S. students (1 international); 4 students are currently pursuing the Ph.D. under her guidance, and she has mentored approximately 50 undergraduate research students. For her efforts in research and teaching, she has received the NSF CAREER award and was named an Office of Naval Research Young Investigator as well as a Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar. Dr. Fisher has also received numerous awards from CSU, including the Jack E. Cermak Outstanding Graduate Advisor Award, the Natural Sciences Award for Mentoring Undergraduate Research, the Margaret Hazaleus Award for Empowering Women, and the Oliver P. Pennock Distinguished Service Award. She was recently recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah. Prof. Fisher is a Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the American Vacuum Society (AVS). She has served on editorial boards of several technical journals and is currently an Executive Editor of the ACS journal ACS-Applied Materials and Interfaces. For her outstanding efforts and excellence in research, teaching, and service, the CSU College of Natural Sciences named her a Professor Laureate in 2009, and in 2010 she was the first woman honored with the University’s highest award for research, the Scholarship Impact Award.

One piece of advice Dr. Fisher would give young scientists (and a hallmark of her career and life) is to keep your options (and your mind) open to enhance the possible. On numerous occasions, Dr. Fisher has flatly refused to make choices that would appear to limit her options. She double-majored in college (so she did not have to choose just one); she was a postdoc at a national lab (so she did not have to choose between industry and academia); she has applied as many labels to her science as possible (so that she did not get pigeon-holed by the inevitable question “what kind of chemist are you?”); and she continues to explore new areas in her research (because it is all just so interesting, why would you want to stay in just one area?). Most recently, she has forayed fairly deeply into the world of biomaterials and nanostructured metal oxide sensor materials. Each of these non-choices has its challenges, but collectively, they create a fresh, vibrant, inquisitive, multidisciplinary, “can-do” team atmosphere in her research group. Fundamentally, Dr. Fisher continues to be amazed and inspired by her students. Her biggest source of pride lies in the many student theses and dissertations that occupy a place of honor on her office bookshelf—having the opportunity to help others realize their dreams and passions is the most rewarding part of a career in science. There is no better feeling than witnessing the “ah-ha” moments that happen when students experience success in the lab, solve a particularly tricky problem, develop a new skill they did not think they could, or discover that they are essentially the first person in the world to collect or understand a particular piece of data no one else has ever seen or done before. It is the best job in the world!

CATHERINE PICART

Professor in Bioengineering/Biomaterials

Grenoble Institute of Technology, France

Practical guide to characterize biomolecule adsorption on solid surfaces (Review)

Elisa Migliorini, Marianne Weidenhaupt, and Catherine Picart

Biointerphases13, 06D303 (2018)

WHAT I LIKE MOST ABOUT MY CAREER: The freedom to think and propose new ideas

GOLDEN MOMENTS: I see research projects and papers as a jigsaw, for which you progressively put the different pieces in place, and assemble them so that they form a coherent picture.

Catherine Picart received an engineering degree in Material Science from Grenoble Institute of Technology and a Master in Biomedical Engineering in 1994, a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the University Joseph Fourier (Grenoble) in 1997. After postdoctoral training in Bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, she was appointed as Assistant Professor in Materials/Biomaterials at the Université Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg in 1998. From 2004 to 2008, she was an Associate Professor at the University of Montpellier 2, Department of Biology and Health, where she also became a junior member of the “Institut Universitaire de France” (2006–2011). She is presently a Full Professor in Bioengineering/Biomaterials at Grenoble Institute of Technology and a senior member of the Institut Universitaire de France (2016–2021). She is working at the Laboratory of Physical Engineering (LMGP) in Minatec in Grenoble in the “Interfaces between Materials and Biological Matter” (IMBM) team (http://www.lmgp.grenoble-inp.fr).

She received an ERC Starting Grant at the consolidator stage in 2010 (Biomim), three ERC Proof of Concept grants in 2012 (Oscodi), 2015 (Bioactivecoatings), and 2017 (Regenerbone) and was awarded the CNRS Silver Medal in 2016. Over the years, she has been working on cellular biophysics and biomimetism, advanced materials, and tissue engineering with applications to muscle, bone, and cancer. She is an author of 128 publications, 10 review papers in multidisciplinary journals on materials science, biomaterials, and biophysics. She is currently a member of the Editorial Advisory Boards of Advanced Healthcare Materials, Tissue Engineering, Acta Biomaterialia, and Biointerphases and was previously an EAB member of ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.

According to Prof Picart: “What I like at most in my career is the freedom to think and propose new ideas. I see research projects and papers as a jigsaw, for which you progressively put the different pieces in place, and assemble them so that they form a coherent picture. Initially, your ideas may be a bit blurry but progressively, you form something which makes sense and you create a story. Science is also a teamwork since different people in a team or collaborators are contributing to assemble the pieces. Also, it is a profound happiness to see the young scientists growing in science, meaning that they progressively enter into their research projects, gain experimental skills and other soft skills, including writing and communication. At some point, they surpass you and manage to go far beyond what was initially planned. It is also rewarding to see their progression in their career, whether academic or non-academic. Finally, I would like to give an advice to younger researchers: believe in what you are doing, be persistent, and don’t give up. You need to have a final goal and stick to it. Doing research is like running a marathon: it is a long run and you need to manage your efforts along the road. It is important not to start too fast, since you can burn your wings.”

HEATHER CANAVAN

Associate Professor

University of New Mexico, USA

Exploring the anomalous cytotoxicity of commercially-available poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide) substrates

Phuong A. H. Nguyen, Lyndsay Stapleton, Adrian Ledesma-Mendoza, Darnell L. Cuylear, Marta A. Cooperstein, and Heather E. Canavan

Biointerphases13, 06D406 (2018)

PERSONAL MOTIVATION: Experience as a breast cancer patient led to adaptive designs for current medical devices to help patients live better, more independent lives

ADVOCATE: Diversity yields better and more creative results … there is a place for YOU in science and engineering.

Heather Canavan is an associate professor at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering. After receiving her Bachelor’s in Biology from the University of California at Santa Barbara, Canavan worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for several years. She then received her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the George Washington University for her work with the late Prof. David Ramaker. Her research was the first to apply X-ray absorption near edge spectroscopy (XANES) in the sulfur K-edge region to observe the structure of proteins under oxidative stress. Her dissertation research was performed at laboratories at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, Naval Research Laboratory, National Institutes of Standards & Technology, and the Food & Drug Administration. After receiving her Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry (with a graduate minor in Forensics), Canavan worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington in the National ESCA Surface Analysis Center for Biological Problems (NESAC/BIO) under Dr. David Castner. In a collaborative project with Xuanhong Cheng in the laboratory of Dr. Buddy Ratner, Canavan began using advanced biological and surface analysis methods to understand how poly(N-isopropyl acrylamide) (pNIPAM) is able to detach confluent mammalian cell sheets in response to environmental cues. Canavan joined the University of New Mexico in 2005. Since that time, Canavan has continued to study the applications and uses of pNIPAM for biomedical purposes, such as in engineered tissues and sensors. In a previous publication in this journal, Canavan and Cooperstein explained the mechanism by which cells detach from pNIPAM. In another, they showed that although the NIPAM monomer is cytotoxic toward cells, almost all formulations of the polymerized form are biocompatible, noting that commercially available pNIPAM (used as-is, without further purification) does cause some cytotoxic effects. In this publication, the authors further explore and explain these effects on mammalian cells. In addition to her research, Canavan is active in both the chemical engineering and biomedical engineering programs at University of New Mexico and teaches courses in Biomaterials, Engineering Design for Global Health, and Adaptive Design for the Community. Canavan was elected as an AVS Fellow in 2018 for her research contributions, as well as her contributions to engineering education.

My educational training includes degrees in biology, physical chemistry, and forensics. This interdisciplinary background is what led to my research focus on cell/surface interactions, especially bioactive and stimulus-responsive polymers. As a professor, I have taught courses in thermodynamics, biomaterials, and engineering for global health. More recently, my experience as a breast cancer patient led to my interest in creating adaptive designs for the community to help patients create the devices that will help them live better, more independent lives. Together with a female graduate student, I have started a company that is focused on bringing these adaptive designs to the community at an affordable price.

In the 15 years that I have been studying the cytotoxicity of bioactive polymers such as pNIPAM, I have been fortunate enough to work with over 50 students and postdocs, 63% are women, and 73% are under-represented minorities. The students who co-authored this paper with me come from different parts of the world such as Poland, Vietnam, and the United States; their educational background spans the Schools of Engineering, Business, Biology, and Psychology; and their ultimate career goals are to work in academia, in industry, and in medicine. I find inspiration that an interest in science and engineering can create connections that not only span a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and interests, but also recognize that this diversity yields better and more creative results. So, for the young authors out there are asking whether you can find a place in science and engineering, and in this type of research, “sí, se puedes” and “yes, we can.”

LISBETH GRØNDAHL

Associate Professor

University of Queensland, Australia

Challenges for the development of surface modified biodegradable polyester biomaterials: A chemistry perspective

Alexandra L. Mutch and Lisbeth Grøndahl

Biointerphases13, 06D501 (2018)

WISDOM SHARED: Success will come through balancing sustained productivity with taking risks.

INTERDISCIPLINARY ADVOCATE: Collaborations with engineers and biologists lead to complex and rich data that foster the development of new biomaterials.

Lisbeth Grøndahl received a Master’s degree in Chemistry and a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) in 1995. Her doctoral research was in the field of inorganic coordination chemistry evaluating the mechanisms of metal-mediated reactions and the extrusion of metal ions from cage complexes. During her Masters and Ph.D. studies, she spent time at the Research School of Chemistry of the Australian National University (Australia). An important lesson that she learned from her Ph.D. supervisor was to look at all the available data and identify overall mechanisms and she continues to apply this philosophy to her research. After completing her Ph.D., she held positions at the Department of Life Science and Chemistry, Roskilde University (Denmark) and a range of positions at the University of Queensland (Australia) and Queensland University of Technology (Australia) prior to joining the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, the University of Queensland, in 2002 as a lecturer. Lisbeth was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2006 and to Associate Professor in 2012. Since her doctoral research, Lisbeth Grøndahl has branched out from her original core competencies and, while she enjoyed inorganic chemistry, she has pursued her interest in biology and now finds that working at the interface of chemistry and biology is incredibly stimulating and challenging—there is always a driving force to learn and apply new knowledge. She currently works in the interdisciplinary field of biomaterials science with a focus on the development of approaches to create functional polymeric biomaterials in the form of membranes, scaffolds, hydrogels, and nanoparticles. Her core research expertise includes surface modification of polymers and inorganic particles, controlled assembly of biopolymers and nanocomposites, as well as the comprehensive characterization of surfaces, composites, and biopolymer assemblies. She finds that understanding the underpinning chemistry that enables the development of new materials with applications as biomaterials is an exciting and rapidly developing field to be part of. Lisbeth enjoys the complexity and richness of the data that is generated with collaborators in engineering and biology and how these data assist in the development of new materials.

Lisbeth Grøndahl’s standing in her field was recognized internationally through the award of Fellow of Biomaterials Science and Engineering (FBSE) at the World Biomaterials Congress in 2016. She currently leads a research team of six Ph.D. students, one Honours student, one research assistant, and a Postdoctoral Fellow. Since entering into the field of Biomaterials Science, she has graduated 16 Ph.D. students as well as three Research Masters and 26 Honours students. She has more than 100 publications and is currently a member of the Editorial Advisory boards of Biointerphases and Bioactive Materials. Lisbeth was President for the Australasian Society for Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering (ASBTE) during 2012–2014 and Conference Chair for the 2015 meeting of the 5th International Symposium on Surfaces and Interfaces for Biomaterials held in conjunction with the 24th Annual Conference of the ASBTE. She is currently one of two Australasian representatives on the Committee for the International Union of Societies for Biomaterials Science and Engineering (IUSBSE).

Lisbeth passes on the recommendation that success will come through balancing sustained productivity with taking risks. Many researchers work in areas of science that they are most comfortable with and this allows them to progress their research and achieve publication benchmarks. This work can be very innovative but typically does not encourage them to look for the bigger picture questions in science. However, her experience has found that tackling the big picture questions is often much more rewarding and builds cross-disciplinary perspectives and understanding. Therefore, we should all try to find a balance between publishing to meet performance expectations (so as to fulfill criteria for our employment and career progression) while looking more deeply into the broader questions that are really holding back progress in our own area of science.

LARA GAMBLE

Research Associate Professor

University of Washington, USA

Analysis of the Myc-induced pancreatic β cell islet tumor microenvironment using imaging ToF-SIMS

Blake M. Bluestein, Fionnuala Morrish, Daniel J. Graham, Li Huang, David Hockenbery, and Lara J. Gamble

Biointerphases13, 06D402 (2018)

INSPIRATION: I am a scientist because I love discovery and learning. I am lucky to have this moment, when I can do something that matches who I am and what I love.

ADVICE: “Field the ball”: Move toward challenges, don’t shy away from them or wait for them to be put in your path.

Lara Gamble: I was honored to be asked to submit an article to this special issue of Biointerphases. I have been working in the field of surface characterization and modification for many years and have enjoyed being part of the growth and development of this field. I began my science career with a foundation in Chemistry (undergraduate degree in Chemistry from University of California, Santa Cruz and a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Washington). I have always had a strong interest in kinetics, catalysis, and how surfaces play a key role in many chemical reactions. After my postdoc, I spent some time in industry at Zyomyx, Inc., a biotech startup in Fremont, CA and then at the Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL) in Logan, UT. I am currently a Bioengineering Research Associate Professor at the University of Washington (UW) and the Co-Director of the long running National ESCA and Surface Analysis Center for Biomedical Problems (NESAC/BIO). I more recently also took on the role of Associate Director of the Molecular Analysis Facility (MAF) at the UW. My current scientific research interests include surface modification and characterization, biomaterials, biosensors, and molecular imaging in 2D and 3D.

I was asked to expand my biography with some words of advice or inspiration. I have been trying to define what to say and how best to be inspirational. We all play many roles in life. I am a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, employee, mentor, and the list goes on, but when I am asked to “define” who I am that I bring with me to guide me in these roles we all fulfill in life, my first thought is always “scientist.” In my mind, being a scientist is not a profession, but a way of life. I am a scientist because I love discovery and learning. I enjoy being with other people whose driving purpose is about learning and discovering the truth. Even if we leave the academic research “grind,” even if we leave an industrial research lab or a national lab, we will still be scientists because of the way we think, because of who we are. Our curiosity and learning will never stop. I try and remember that I am lucky to have this moment when I can do, as a profession, something that matches who I am and what I love. No matter what happens in the future, I have this moment. I try and remember to enjoy the present and not worry too much about the future.

We are all faced with challenges in our careers. When I think about advice, perhaps on how I overcome these hurdles in my career or my life, the only advice I can think of is what seems to work best for me when I hit hurdles. Recently, a friend pointed out that it is the unknown, the waiting, that causes the worry and stress. As one of my old officemates (when I was a postdoc) use to suggest, “Field the Ball.” After asking what this meant (since I am not much of a baseball player) I found it means always moving toward the challenge before it comes to you. So, when faced with a challenge, I try to be proactive and tackle it head on because I know what I want from life. I advise moving toward the challenges, and not shying from them or waiting for them to be put in your path. Field the Ball.

EVA BITTRICH

Scientist

Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research (IPF), Germany

Interactions of bioactive molecules with thin dendritic glycopolymer layers

Eva Bittrich, Flavia Mele, Andreas Janke, Frank Simon, Klaus-Jochen Eichhorn, Brigitte Voit, and Dietmar Appelhans

Biointerphases13, 06D405 (2018)

FULFILLMENT: Focus on a research topic that is capable of exciting you every day again

BEST PART OF MY JOB: Getting in contact with researchers from very different fields, learning from them, and sharing our ideas

Eva Bittrich is a scientist at the Leibniz Institute of Polymer Research (IPF) Dresden, Germany, and manages the lab of spectroscopic ellipsometry. She started her career with a diploma in physics in 2007 modifying nanostructured materials by X-rays at TU Dresden. Afterwards, she continued in the interdisciplinary polymer brushes group of Prof. Manfred Stamm and Dr. Petra Uhlmann at IPF Dresden and received a Ph.D. in chemistry in 2010. During this time, she had the great opportunity to join the DFG-NFS “Materials World Network” and to work together with scientists from the United States and Germany from different fields such as theoretical physics, organic chemistry, and material engineering. Her interests focused on the investigation of swelling of stimuli-responsive binary and ternary polymer brush systems as well as protein adsorption on these smart surfaces. Therefore, she used the method of in-situ spectroscopic ellipsometry, mentored by Dr. Klaus-Jochen Eichhorn. She was awarded the Paul-Drude Medal of the German Ellipsometry Association (AKE - Paul Drude e.V.) in 2009 and had the chance to intensify her research on smart polymer surfaces and to get new inspiring insights into the world of ellipsometry in a research visit in Prof. Mathias Schubert’s group at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the same year.

The welcoming and approving atmosphere in the ellipsometric community motivated her to continue her efforts in this field, and to join the German Ellipsometry Association, currently acting as a board member. Nowadays, she explores the potential of ellipsometric methods and their combinations with other techniques for the analysis and development of organic thin films, ranging from biocompatible polymer surfaces to polymer films for microelectronic packaging, to films for organic electronics. She published her research in 24 journal publications and 5 book chapters so far.

My inspiration and advice for students starting their scientific career: “The most inspiring part of my work is getting in contact with researchers from very different fields, learning from them, and sharing our ideas. This is a very creative and exciting way of doing scientific research and provides the extra something for everyday work. I think that communication with collaborators and other researches is a key element in being a scientist. Do not stick to your lab space or your desk, but go and talk to the other students and experienced researchers and share ideas. Furthermore, the continuous support of my mentors during two family breaks and the possibilities at our institute for a good family-work balance greatly encouraged me to stay into science. To look out for the right environment that fits your personal and career plans can help a lot to manage different aims in life. But above all, try to focus on a research topic that is capable of exciting you every day again.”

KATE FOX

Senior Lecturer

RMIT University, Australia

Nanostructured biomedical selenium at the biological interface (Review)

Victoria le Ching Tan, Angelica Hinchman, Richard Williams, Phong A. Tran, and Kate Fox

Biointerphases13, 06D301 (2018)

CAREER PATH: Reformed lawyer turned engineer

ADVICE: Engineering is a very exciting career, and it puts students at the interface of the newest technologies.

INTERESTS: Bionic devices, 3D printing, and diamond!

Kate Fox is a senior lecturer at RMIT in the School of Engineering. Graduating from Flinders University, South Australia, with a degree in Biomedical Engineering, she went on to undertake a Ph.D. in Applied Science at the Ian Wark Research Institute. After graduation, she became a patent attorney but very quickly worked out that she was better suited in academia (billable hours and pant-suits are not as fun as they sound). She does not want to discourage one from this career path but it did involve a lot of writing and working alone. Two items were not in Kate’s top list of fun tasks. In 2010, she moved across the border to Melbourne, where she joined the University of Melbourne to work with medical bionics implants. Kate has been involved in two of the biggest medical bionics projects in Australia, the Bionic Eye and the Stentrode device, a device capable of directly interfacing with the brain. At present, she is working at RMIT University researching the application of additive manufacturing for orthopedic implant applications, in particular, the use of new and exciting materials such as diamond. 3D printing is an exciting technology but at present the current material options do not really provide the advances in medicine compared to the traditional subtractive options. Whilst we can now make patient-specific, one size fits one, implants, they remain expensive. By bringing in new technologies and in particular new materials designed to work at the implant-bone interface, we have the opportunity to really improve patient outcomes.

In her current role, Kate aims to inspire the next generation of engineers. Engineering is a very exciting career and it puts students at the interface of the newest technologies. When asked what is an engineer? The best definition she has is that “we exist to solve problems that are yet to exist.” Her advice to the next generation of women coming through

  • 1.

    Be nice to your colleagues, as you get more senior so do they.

  • 2.

    Network, network, network.

  • 3.

    There is nothing wrong with being the linking person who brings together research groups but make sure sometimes you push yourself to the front.

  • 4.

    Have fun and don’t worry about the small things. In the end, they rarely matter.

  • 5.

    As an engineer you have a rare opportunity to make a difference, use it!

MELISSA REYNOLDS

Associate Dean for Research in the College of Natural Sciences

Associate Professor in Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering

Colorado State University, USA

Nitric oxide-mediated fibrinogen deposition prevents platelet adhesion and activation

Yanyi Zang, Ketul C. Popat, and Melissa M. Reynolds

Biointerphases13, 06E403 (2018)

MOTIVATION: Improving medical device technologies to improve patient outcomes

PASSION: Helping students find their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

Melissa Reynolds, Ph.D., serves as the Associate Dean for Research in the College of Natural Sciences and is an Associate Professor in Chemistry and Biomedical Engineering at Colorado State University. She received a B.Sc. in Chemistry from Washington State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and worked for a translational biomedical device company before joining CSU in 2009. Her research interests are in improving medical device technologies to improve patient outcomes. Her group is highly multidisciplinary and collaborative working in the areas of metal organic frameworks such as biocatalysts, antibacterial materials, and biosensors. She has been recognized as an emerging investigator by the Journal of Materials Chemistry, a Webb-Waring Biomedical Research Early Career Award, an NSF CAREER Award, and a Monfort Award. The group’s research on metal organic frameworks received a 2013 TechConnect National Innovation Award. Her research has been funded by NSF, NIH, DOD, Boettcher Foundation, state funding, and corporate funding. In addition to her research, Reynolds loves the classroom was named 2011 Educator of the Year by the Colorado Bioscience Association. She continues to actively engage with industry and serves as the executive editor for the SurFACTS, the Surfaces in Biomaterials newsletter.

According to Prof. Reynolds: “I am passionate about helping students find their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness—and what I enjoy most is helping students have those ‘ah ha’ moments—whether that are in the classroom or the lab. I still remember what it felt like as student not to know or understand chemistry—feelings of frustration and feeling ‘dumb’. Lucky for me, I had mentors who were patient and supportive of the non-A student and gave me opportunities. Now, I want to give students supportive opportunities to grow as people and professionals. For me, it really is all about the students and helping them achieve their dreams.”

TIFFANY WALSH

Professor of Bio/Nanotechnology

Deakin University, Australia

Effect of calcium ions on peptide adsorption at the aqueous rutile titania (110) interface

Anas M. Sultan, Zak E. Hughes, and Tiffany R. Walsh

Biointerphases13, 06D403 (2018)

PIOINEERING EXPERTISE: Molecular simulations for predicting structure-property relationships of biointerfaces

ENCOURAGEMENT: Tread your own path in your early career … you will have the freedom to establish your own area of expertise.

Tiffany Walsh earned her Ph.D. degree in theoretical chemistry from the University of Cambridge, UK, as a Cambridge Commonwealth Trust scholar, after graduating with a B.Sci (Hons) from the University of Melbourne. Following a Glasstone Fellowship in the Department of Materials at the University of Oxford in the UK, she joined the faculty of the University of Warwick in the Department of Chemistry and the Centre for Scientific Computing. In 2012, she returned to Australia to the Institute for Frontier Materials at Deakin University, Geelong, where she is currently Professor of Bio/Nanotechnology. Her research interests focus on computational materials science, chiefly modeling interfaces between soft matter and solid surfaces, including nanoparticles, using both first principles calculations and molecular mechanics-based simulations. In particular, Walsh has pioneered advanced molecular simulation approaches and novel analyses for predicting structure/property relationships of bio-interfaces; these approaches have since been adopted by numerous research groups worldwide. She is also the co-creator of atomistic force-fields for describing bio-interfaces with gold, silver, and graphene substrates.

Reflections: Tread your own path in your early career. It is not necessarily an easy journey compared with the potential protection and privilege that comes with being a junior partner of a big-name senior investigator. However, you will have freedom to establish and consolidate your own area of expertise from the get-go, you might end up more resilient and resourceful for it, and you will not have to worry about stepping out from underneath someone else’s huge shadow.

JENNY MALMSTRÖM

Senior Lecturer

University of Auckland, New Zealand

Engineered systems to study the synergistic signaling between integrin-mediated mechanotransduction and growth factors (Review)

Isabela Monteiro A., Tarek Kollmetz, and Jenny Malmström

Biointerphases13, 06D302 (2018)

ENCOURAGEMENT: Persistence and patience are key in research, and in particular, when it comes to applying for grants and positions.

FAMILY MATTERS: For the young women out there who want both a family and a career, it is possible, and a supportive partner makes all the difference!

Jenny Malmström is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering at the University of Auckland. Her research focusses on creating functional biointerfaces to understand and control biological systems. She never expected to become an academic and did not know what a Ph.D. was growing up. In fact, she used to want to become a rubbish truck driver. She and her sister were the first in the family to attend University, so she had the pleasure of growing up with low expectations, but a great deal of support. Her passion for experimental science started early. The first exposure to a ‘real’ laboratory was at the end of high school when she called up a professor at Stockholm University and asked to spend a week in their lab as an intern. There, she was introduced to growing nitrogen fixating bacteria and learned what a Ph.D. student is.

When she started to study Bioengineering at Chalmers in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1998, it was the first time she experienced that learning was hard. After overcoming the significant struggle of the first year, she took a year off to work and travel before returning to university. She graduated with a M.Sc. of bioengineering in 2004 after traveling to New Zealand to perform her final research project. That project gave her a taste for independent research, leading into a one-year postgraduate research program. During that program, Jenny worked in three different research groups and got a good insight into what research she enjoyed and the importance of a good supervisor. One of the projects during that postgraduate year was with Dr. Duncan Sutherland, who subsequently secured a position at the University of Aarhus in Denmark and offered her a Ph.D. position, which she took up.

After her Ph.D., she decided to go to Auckland in New Zealand for a postdoctoral research position in polymer chemistry. To do this, she applied for all postdoctoral funding she was eligible for. While all of her applications were unsuccessful, her determination secured her a locally funded postdoc. Moving to a new field after her Ph.D. was both rewarding and challenging. It was a very valuable way to expand research skills. In 2016, Jenny was successful in securing a permanent academic position at the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. That year, she was also awarded two major early career research grants. Taken together, this was a significant event in her career, providing the security, funds and research time needed to start her research group. She is currently supervising a talented group of Ph.D. students and honours students. The research in the group is all about interfaces: the interfaces where biological molecules meet novel materials and the interfaces between biology, chemistry and materials science. The group’s expertise in characterizing and understanding the material-biomolecule interactions is applied to emerging and exciting areas such as the creation of smart materials to help understand or control cellular behavior.

During Jenny’s meandering path, a few pieces of advice have stood out as central:

  • 1.

    It is important to find a Ph.D. topic you are passionate about, but it is possibly even more important to choose your Ph.D. supervisor with care. My Ph.D. supervisor, Prof. Duncan Sutherland, was central in my career as he made me believe in my ability and shared his inspiration for the biointerface field with his students.

  • 2.

    Persistence and patience are key in research, and in particular, when it comes to applying for grants and positions. Listen carefully to feedback and advice to improve, but don’t stop applying!

  • 3.

    Some of the best advice I have had, from a female researcher, is that there is never a good time to have kids—so there is little point waiting for the perfect time. I never wanted to choose between having kids or a career and had my first child during my Ph.D. and my second during my first postdoctoral position. For the young women out there who want both a family and a career, it is possible and a supportive partner makes all the difference!

YAROSLAVA G. YINGLING

Professor

North Carolina State University, USA

Progress in ligand design for monolayer-protected nanoparticles for nano-bio interfaces

Matthew Manning, Albert Kwansa, Thomas Oweida, James Peerless, Abhishek Singh, and Yaroslava G. Yingling

Biointerphases13, 06D502 (2018)

ADVICE: Always have a set of short and long term goals. The long term goals should have no specific time limits, but a general direction of where your research and career should go. Short term goals should be realistic and should lead to a product, in terms of publications, patents, or presentations.

Yaroslava G. Yingling is Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University. She received her University Diploma in Computer Science and Engineering from St. Petersburg State Technical University of Russia and her Ph.D. in Materials Engineering and High Performance Computing from the Pennsylvania State University. She carried out postdoctoral research at Penn State University Chemistry Department prior to joining the National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute as a Cancer Research Training Award Fellow. She joined North Carolina State University in 2007 and was promoted to Professor in 2016. She received the USA National Science Foundation CAREER award, American Chemical Society Open Eye Young Investigator Award and was named a NCSU University Faculty Scholar.

Research interests in Prof. Yingling’s group are focused on the development of advanced computational models and novel algorithms for multiscale molecular modeling of various processes in composite, soft, and biological materials and aim to provide a fundamental understanding of the structure-property relations of a variety of soft materials systems that are formed through the process of self-assembly.

Reflections: Always have a set of short and long term goals. The long term goals should have no specific time limits, but a general direction of where your research and career should go. Short term goals should be realistic and should lead to a product, in terms of publications, patents, or presentations.

TANJA WEIL

Scientific Member and Director

Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research, Germany

Facile synthesis of ultrasmall polydopamine-polyethylene glycol nanoparticles for cellular delivery

Sean Harvey, David Yuen Wah Ng, Jolanta Szelwicka, Lisa Hueske, Lothar Veith, Marco Raabe, Ingo Lieberwirth, George Fytas, Katrin Wunderlich, and Tanja Weil

Biointerphases13, 06D407 (2018)

PASSION: To move beyond current scientific knowledge and give passionate students an exciting research environment to work on scientific challenges that really matter.

Tanja Weil studied chemistry (1993–1998) at the TU Braunschweig (Germany) and the University of Bordeaux I (France) and completed her Ph.D. at the MPI for Polymer Research with Klaus Müllen. From 2002 to 2008, she managed different leading positions at Merz Pharmaceuticals GmbH (Frankfurt) from Section Head Medicinal Chemistry to Director of Chemical Research and Development. She accepted an Associate Professor position at the National University of Singapore in 2008. In 2010, she joined Ulm University as Director of the Institute of Organic Chemistry III/Macromolecular Chemistry. Tanja Weil became a member of the Max Planck Society in 2017 as one of the directors of the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research heading the department “Synthesis of Macromolecules.” She has received the Otto Hahn Medal of the Max Planck Society (2003), an ERC Synergy Grant together with Fedor Jelezko and Martin Plenio (2013), and the research prize of the city of Ulm (2014). Her current scientific interests include the synthesis of quantum materials, functional macromolecular architectures, and biohybrid materials to address urgent challenges in materials science, biomedicine, and sensing.