Spotlight on Young Researchers: Svenja Bourone

 

Svenja Bourone is a chemist who has always had a fascination for natural sciences. During her master studies at RWTH Aachen, she became captivated by functional nanomaterials and as chance would have it, a doctoral position opened up in just that field. During her AFR PhD, Svenja developed a new protocol to help with the synthesisation of gold nanoparticles, which she is now putting to use in her work as a Postdoc. The Luxembourg national has a strong desire to return home to the Grand Duchy to continue her work on nanomaterials.

Nanomaterial is a material with particles or constituents of nanoscale dimensions, or one that is produced by nanotechnology. To put the scale of this in to context: A sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometres thick, it is therefore safe to say that any work in this field requires a potent microscope.

Nanotechnology brings together a diverse field of sciences, such as physics, chemistry, biology, materials science, and engineering. Overall, Svenja’s work falls into the materials science part. But how did Svenja, a passionate chemist, end up as a Postdoc working with nanomaterials?

“I am thrilled with the conception, preparation and investigation of advanced materials presenting unprecedented properties. Therefore, I put the focus of my doctoral and postdoctoral studies on nanomaterials- and technology,” Svenja explains.

Investigating ways to characterise gold nanoparticles

It was during her Masters studies at RWTH Aaachen that Svenja went to a course about functional nanomaterial run by Prof Simon, who would later play an instrumental role in Svenja’s PhD studies. Instantly mesmerised by the topic, Svenja joined Prof Simon’s group to complete her Master studies, investigating possible ways to characterise gold nanoparticles – miniscule parts of gold that can be as small as 5 nanometres. This work led to Svenja’s PhD, as she explains:

“Prof Simon offered me to continue working in his group for my PhD thesis, I readily accepted, as he proposed that I should probe the relation between the composition of gold nanoparticles and their electrical properties, which was exactly why I chose to become a chemist in the first place.”

Svenja explains that nanotechnology “pursues the goal of assembling devices exhibiting unprecedented properties from components so small that they have size-dependent characteristics, which diverge from those of the bulk material. This observation also applies to gold nanoparticles”.

“That is the reason why I develop protocols to synthesize gold nanoparticles presenting an asymmetric structure owing to the molecules on their surface. They can be used as functional elements in electronics, for the detection of biomolecules or drug delivery.”

In order to realise these applications, their asymmetry has to be validated. This presents a challenge, because a tiny number of molecules have to be selectively detected – and this reaches the bounds of current technical feasibility. But Svenja did not let that faze her:

“I accepted this challenge and was able to develop a new protocol, which allows proving the asymmetry of the particles I synthesize. I now use it on a daily basis and investigate the electrical properties of asymmetric gold nanoparticles.”

“During my PhD studies, I got accepted to give a talk at the Pacifichem Congress, which is one of the largest chemistry conferences of the world and is held only every five years. It takes place in Honolulu (Hawaii, USA) and gathers approximately 18˙000 scientists.”

“At this congress, I presented my results about the successful characterization of asymmetric nanoparticles to a broad and international public.
I met scientists from all over the world and discussed my findings as well as the technological progress of nanotechnology with experts in this field.
Of course, by the end of the day, stepping out of the rather dark conference rooms directly onto Waikiki beach was a sublime highlight for itself.”

“Luxembourg’s R&D landscape is developing at a breath-taking pace”

Svenja’s main goal as a researcher is to satisfy her natural curiosity – using scientific studies as a mechanism to better grasp how different factors influence each other – to ultimately gain a better comprehension of the world’s complexity. And she is looking to continue this work in her home country Luxembourg, in the domain of advanced materials – which falls into Luxembourg’s priority research domains.

Being of Luxembourgish nationality, I am determined to return to Luxembourg since I feel deeply connected to it” Svenja says, adding:

“Therefore, I am all the more pleased that in the last years the Grand Duchy has put a lot of effort in attracting outstanding scientists and establishing a renowned R&D landscape, it has developed into an attractive working place for top researchers.

“Luxembourg’s R&D landscape is developing at a breath-taking pace and new opportunities open up every day, so that there seem to be practically no limits to its evolution.”

Svenja adds that she has in particular set her sight on what is happening in her domain at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology, and hopes she can become a part of it:

“At the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), a research unit focusing on the use of nanomaterials in practical applications has been founded. Consequently, one of the long-term goals regarding my career is to be part of this establishment of nanoscience and -technology with their exciting opportunities in Luxembourg’s R&D landscape. I strongly believe that they will have a crucial impact on the future technological progress of our society.”


Published Thursday, 15 June 2017

Svenja Bourone

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About Spotlight on Young Researchers

Spotlight on Young Researchers is an FNR initiative to highlight early career researchers across the world who have a connection to Luxembourg. This article is the 15th in a series of around 25 articles, which will be published on a weekly basis. You can see more articles below as and when they are published.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Maria Pires Pacheco

Maria Pires Pacheco is a problem solver with a fondness for coding, who was always drawn to the scientist in a group of heroes, rather than the classic hero. During her AFR PhD, the Luxembourg national worked on building tools that help simulate the metabolism of a cell, tools she applied to cancer research during her postdoc.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Lisa Hefele

When Lisa Hefele was a child, she wanted to study archaeology because she thought her days would look like an Indiana Jones movie. The realisation that this would not be the case, combined with an inquisitive nature and growing passion for biology, led Lisa to pursue the path of a biology and public health researcher. Now in the first year of her PhD at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), Lisa is working on an international project that has taken her all the way to Laos for her field work on low immunologic responses to vaccines.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Paulo Carvalho

Having started his professional career 16 years ago, Paulo Carvalho did not plan any major career changes. Then an opportunity came up that would change work life as he knew it and a few years later, the French/Portuguese national is completing his PhD at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST).

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Gilles Tossing

Gilles Tossing’s fascination for the human brain – and why it sometimes fails – led him to the path of research. Now in the second year of his AFR PhD at Université de Montréal in Canada, the Luxembourg national investigates neurodegenerative diseases, with the aim of improving treatments for those affected.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Hussein Rappel

Hussein Rappel uses a mathematical learning approach to try to predict and simulate physical phenomena. The Iranian national came to Luxembourg in 2014 to join the team of Prof Stephane Bordas at the University of Luxembourg, where he is now in the 3rd year of his PhD in Computational Science – and sees great potential in Luxembourg as a research destination.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Taking language barriers out of the equation

Luxembourg nationals Max Greisen and Véronique Cornu have many things in common: They are both educated in the field of psychology, they are both PhD researchers at the University of Luxembourg – and they both work with language-free approaches to early mathematical development of multilingual children. Max develops and implements animations that help assess early numerical competencies, while Véronique develops training methods to help overcome language barriers in early math education.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Anjali Sharma

In school, we are taught three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas. The focus of University of Luxembourg PhD candidate Anjali Sharma’s research lies between solid and liquid: liquid crystal. She studies them in unusual shapes that are no larger than the width of a human hair, yet they are considered as large by the scientists of the field. As part of her research, the Indian national got an opportunity for a rare experiment: Taking her research into a zero gravity environment.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Michel Thill

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Thomas Schaubroeck

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Guillaume Nataf

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Yamila Mariel Omar

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Konstantinos Papadopoulos

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Amy Parrish

During her Master’s studies, Amy Parrish found her passion for research with a clinical aspect. Having come from London to Luxembourg to pursue her AFR PhD at the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH) in the research group of Mahesh Desai, the American national studies the bacteria that inhabit our gut, to shed light on the development of diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Remko Nijzink

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Understanding brain mechanisms behind eating disorders

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Alex Gansen

Alex Gansen first dabbled in research during his Masters studies in physics at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland), and then decided he wanted to take on the challenge of a PhD, so the Luxembourg national returned to his home country. Alex has just submitted his thesis at the end of the 4th year of his AFR PhD in computational electromagnetics at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) in collaboration with the College of Engineering in Swansea. He sees the close links between local industry and research in Luxembourg as a great advantage for the future of research in the Grand Duchy.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Foni Raphaël Lebrun-Ricalens

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Spotlight on Young Researchers: Damien Brevers

Postdoc Damien Brevers has a passion for studying self-control abilities in humans. Having spent time in Belgium and the US building expertise in areas including clinical psychology, sport psychology and brain imaging, the Belgian national has just joined the University of Luxembourg and embarked on a project looking at gambling addiction in the age of online betting.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa

Growing up in Botswana and Zimbabwe, Nathasia Mudiwa Muwanigwa did not see science as a career option. Fast forward a few years: Nathasia is studying Parkinson’s disease as part of her PhD at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg, and has co-founded a STEM initiative that was featured in Forbes.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Max Hilaire Wolter

During his Bachelor studies in physics and photovoltaics at the University of Luxembourg, Max Hilaire Wolter was exposed to live-action research for the first time. The experience left such a positive impression that Max proactively sought out to return to the same lab for a PhD after completing his Master’s studies abroad. We spoke to the Luxembourg national about why research is fun, solar cells and the importance of science outreach.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Paul Johanns

Paul Johanns works in a research field one does not read about every day: knots. As part of his AFR PhD at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), the Luxembourg national combines high-precision model experiments, computation and theory to untangle the influence of topology on the mechanics of complex knots, particularly those used in surgical procedures.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Anna Monzel

Anna Monzel cites her thirst for new knowledge and discoveries as a key contributor in her choosing to follow the path of science. Drawn to Luxembourg because of its interdisciplinary approach, the German national developed a 3D model of the human midbrain for her PhD at the LCSB at the University of Luxembourg – which earned her a Lush Young Researcher Prize.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Eric Finn Schaanning

Eric Finn Schaanning was drawn to research by a thirst to understand what mechanisms drove the financial crisis. He has just defended his AFR PhD at Imperial College London, during which he developed an operational ‘stress test’ model that is already being used by two European Central Banks. The half Luxembourg, half Norwegian national is now a Senior Advisor at Norges Bank, where he continues to analyse and help improve understanding of how financial institutions react to economic shocks.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Dominique Santana

After completing her master’s degree, Luxembourg national Dominique Santana decided to spend time in her mother’s birth country Brazil. While there, she became intrigued by Brazil’s communities of Luxembourgish nationals and wanted to investigate further. Now in the first year of her AFR PhD at the C²DH at the University of Luxembourg, Dominique is examining the paths of Luxembourgers who emigrated to Brazil from 1920 – 1965, which has already rekindled old friendships.

Spotlight on Young Researchers: Ramona Pelich

Ramona Pelich uses data from satellites in space to improve maritime surveillance and flood hazard monitoring. Splitting her time between the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and the company LuxSpace as part of her AFR-PPP Postdoc, the Romanian national’s work has already found direct application when flood maps she co-developed were used in the aftermath of destructive 2017 hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

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