Premiere of the Women Interactive Materials Award (WIMA) - an international stage for young female scientists


On October 28, inquisitive viewers were pleased to follow the exciting presentations of six outstanding female scientists, including final-year PhD students, post-doctoral fellows, and young research group leaders. They were among the finalists of the first WIMA symposium and presented their research while audiences from around the world watched live. The award given by DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials aims to promote the careers of the most talented, creative, and passionate young female researchers and provides them with an international stage.

Full of joy, Kerstin Göpfrich, first-place winner of the first WIMA symposium and winner of 10,000 Euros in prize money, thanked the jury and all participants: "The fact that we women scientists were able to come together today and talk about our research is thanks to the pioneers and women scientists before us and, of course, to all those who are committed to women in science." Jinghui Liu, runner-up, and Shikha Dhiman, third-place winner, each enjoyed 2,500 Euros in prize money.

In addition to the prize money, which was provided by DWI’s Association of Friends and specialty chemicals group ALTANA AG, the winners are invited to participate in a mentoring program both at the DWI - Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials and at ALTANA AG. There they will get to know the institute and corporate cultures and will be advised by experienced scientists from academia and industry.

The symposium was introduced by DWI’s Scientific Director Stefan Hecht. He briefly touched on the DWI's long and multifaceted history and emphasized the motivation for organizing the WIMA symposium "Our goal is to encourage women to live their dreams and successfully pursue scientific careers. We want to give them the best possible support in doing so." After the introduction of the jury, which gathered three very renowned experts in the field of materials science - Karen Wooley (Texas A&M University), Petra Severit (Altana AG) and Laura De Laporte (DWI and RWTH) - the finalists took the floor.

Yimin Luo (University of California) presented her recent achievements and research in the field of high throughput microscopy. Kerstin Göpfrich (MPI for Medical Research) introduced the audience to the exciting world of synthetic cells and explained how materials could be "brought to life." Ambika Somasundar (The Pennsylvania State University) demonstrated impressive processes in which enzyme-coated liposomes act as self-propulsive motors. Ulrike Kraft (MPI for Polymer Research) presented the key roles of functional molecules in polymer-based materials. Jinghui Liu (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) explained to the audience the topological defects and information flows on membranes of living cells. Last but not least Shikha Dhiman (Eindhoven University of Technology) gave a presentation explaining versatile strategies to spatially and temporally control the supramolecular assembly of polymer structures.

At the award ceremony, the jury addressed a few more words to the finalists: "You have impressively demonstrated to us today that all of you have already been able to achieve remarkable findings in your research, and we are sure that you will be able to celebrate even greater successes if you continue to pursue your promising research visions," Petra Severit appealed. "You are bubbling over with ideas and inventiveness. It's wonderful to see how deeply you engage with your research, critically evaluate your results, and have the determination to always go one step further," Karen Wooley and Laura De Laporte summed up.

The DWI would like to thank all applicants, participants, and in particular the sponsor ALTANA AG. We are already looking forward to the next Women Interactive Materials Award in 2022!

Further information

The winners: Kerstin Göpfrich (first place), Jinghui Liu (second place), Shikha Dhiman (third place)