Following in Marie Curie's footsteps

November 26th, 2012
Emma Martín Rodríguez is a post-doctoral researcher in Concordia's Department of Chemistry. Credit: Concordia University
More than a century ago, a brilliant young chemist and physicist named Marie Curie, won a Nobel Prize for her ground-breaking discoveries in radioactivity.

Emma Martín Rodríguez, a post-doctoral researcher in Concordia's Department of Chemistry, is carrying on Curie's spirit of trail-blazing scientific inquiry, thanks to a prestigious research fellowship, created in Curie's name.

Last summer, Martín Rodríguez was one of approximately 100 scholars from across Europe to be awarded the Marie Curie Actions Research Fellowship. The award is sponsored by the European Commission, and is helping to foster her research in nanoparticles for biomedical applications.

Martín Rodríguez came to Concordia from her native Spain in October 2010 on a three-month research grant. Shortly thereafter, she received a post-doctoral fellowship from the Fundación Alfonso Martín Escudero to continue her research at Concordia. Always one to aim high, Rodríguez then applied for a Marie Curie Actions Research Fellowship, one of the most prestigious scholarships available to emerging scientists in Europe. To her surprise and delight, she was awarded the Marie Curie in August 2011. It is worth worth more than $100,000 in salary and research funding over three years.

Thanks to the Marie Curie fellowship, the past year-and-a-half at Concordia has been especially productive for Martín Rodríguez. Along with other Concordia researchers in the Department of Chemistry, she has been working to develop nanoparticles for biomedical applications, which include more effective identification of cancer cells.

Explains Martín Rodríguez, "the idea is to develop nanoparticles capable of emitting visible light when excited with near-infrared light. That type of light is not harmful for biological specimens and can penetrate deeper in the body than light of other wavelengths. We 'decorate' these nanoparticles with either specific molecules that can recognize cancerous tumours, or with drugs that can be activated with the same light that the nanoparticles emit. That makes it possible for us to localize very small tumours and eliminate specific cancer cells while sparing healthy ones."

This work would not be possible without the support of Marie Curie fellowship. "Receiving this fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in a scientific career for several reasons," says Martín Rodríguez. "The fellowship provides researchers with a high degree of independence. It includes not only a salary to live on, but also gives the researcher a fund to spend on research, study material, conferences and courses. The European Commission also provides unique opportunities for researchers to help to establish new collaborations and have new experiences. For example, last summer I had the chance to participate in the yearly Lindau Conference of Nobel Laureates with young researchers from everywhere around the word, alongside 27 Nobel Laureates."

Martín Rodríguez's supervisor, chemistry professor John Capobianco, couldn't be more pleased to have her as part of his team. "Emma is a very, very intelligent young woman. Not only is she sharp, motivated, and driven, she's extremely approachable, which is a great quality to have in the lab. She has a lot of experience and is really helpful when it comes to guiding students along."

Martín Rodríguez is already a year-and-a-half into her two-year stint at Concordia. Once she completes her stay here next summer, she'll return to Spain to conduct further research. "This has been an amazing opportunity," says Martín Rodríguez. "I'm so thankful that I've had the chance to broaden my horizons through this scholarship – and through all the wonderful research connections I've made here at Concordia."

Provided by Concordia University

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