Adolphe Merkle Institute alum Dr. Anirvan (Gogol) Guha is the winner of this year’s Vigener Prize for the University of Fribourg’s Faculty of Science and Medicine. The Vigener Prizes, instituted in 1908 following a donation by Joseph Vigener and endowed with CHF 2,000 francs, are awarded for outstanding doctoral research by the university’s different faculties.
Guha, who carried out his doctoral research within Prof. Michael Mayer’s BioPhysics group, successfully defended his PhD thesis on “Bio-Inspired Energy-Converting Materials” at the end of 2020. His work focused notably on the development of bio-inspired battery systems, focusing on the morphology of the Atlantic torpedo ray, the most powerful electric fish known. These fish use gradients of ions within their bodies to generate external electrical discharges of over 1 kW. The result was a hybrid material of hydrogel-infused paper to create, organize, and reconfigure stacks of thin, arbitrarily large gel films with differences in salt concentration in series and in parallel, potentially capable of running electronic devices. It also demonstrated that the biological mechanism of generating significant electrical power is possible with benign and soft materials in a portable size.
Another member of the AMI community was recognized for the quality of his PhD thesis. Dr. Subhajit Pal, currently a postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Christoph Weder’s Polymer Chemistry and Materials group, was awarded the university’s Chorofas Prize, worth $ 5,000, for the best doctoral thesis in natural sciences. Pal completed his PhD thesis on “Towards Sequence Controlled Polymer Synthesis” as a member of Prof. Andreas Kilbinger’s group at the Department of Chemistry. His research focused on developing novel synthetic methodologies for biomimetic functional polymer synthesis, taking its cue from nature’s mastery of producing on-demand smart materials. The Dimitris N. Chorafas Foundation awards scientific prizes for outstanding work in selected fields in the engineering sciences, medicine and the natural sciences. They reward research characterized by its high potential for practical application, and by the special significance attached to its possible future use.