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21 July 2010
Dr Paola Borri of the School of Biosciences has secured a highly sought-after Leadership award which could propel her research onto the world stage.
Dr Borri is a physicist working in the area of biophotonics at the interface between life and physical sciences
Now, she has won a £1.1M Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Leadership Award for the next five years. This will support her own research, along with a research associate, two PhDs and resources for a research programme. The School of Biosciences is backing up the award by introducing a lecturership post as part of the team.
EPSRC Leadership Fellowships support talented researchers with the potential to develop into international leaders who can set new research agendas. Announcing the new fellowships, Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "Supporting talented scientists and engineers throughout their careers is crucial to driving the UK’s science base and economy forward.
"These prestigious fellowships are an important investment for the future, and will help us develop innovative technologies and solutions for the major challenges ahead, and secure our place as global winners."
Dr Borri will use this award to develop a new "optical nanoscopy" technology to determine the intrinsic chemical composition of nanoscale regions in living cells. It will allow living cells to be studied in greater detail without the need for fluorescent staining, which is used in current techniques and can affect the cells being studied.
The new technology should open the way to studying a range of biological and medical problems which are impossible with present technology. These include questions about cell membranes which may have implications for HIV and influenza. The technique should also help with IVF and cancer research, where fluourophore labelling cannot be used.
Dr Borri said: "I feel highly honoured to have received such an award. The field was very competitive – I believe there were initially more than 650 outline proposals with the intention to award up to 50 Fellowships. It is very exciting to have the opportunity to dedicate my full skillset full time to drive this technology challenge to success. This research will progress the field of optical microscopy, advance our understanding in physics and material sciences, and will tackle biomedical problems that are virtually impossible to address with currently available techniques."
Professor Ole Petersen, Director of the School of Biosciences, said: "This award is a tremendous success for Paola and we are delighted for her. These awards are extremely keenly competed for. This research programme promises to help scientists solve a whole array of difficult questions – and also to establish Paola among the very best in the world in her field. The School is pleased to be supporting her project with the establishment of the new lectureship post."
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