After achieving a PhD in Physics in her home country, Spain, Helena Rodilla came to Chalmers to take on new challenges. As Assistant Professor in the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience (MC2), she gained the opportunity to be part of the project that is now receiving the Areas of Advance Award for 2016.
“I have really been lucky with this collaboration. It’s a fantastic team to work in where we learn a huge amount from each other.”
Molecules and terahertz waves
The idea for the project came from Aldo Jesorka, Professor of Chemical Engineering , Jan Stake, Professor at MC2, and Josip Vukusic, Researcher at MC2. The interplay between molecules and terahertz waves has been studied by radio astronomers for a long time. Even large molecules, such as our biological building blocks, can have resonance within the terahertz spectrum, but in what way and how it can be influenced are aspects that have hardly been researched at all in practice – until now.
“Terahertz frequencies have not been used for life science, but unique interaction with biomolecules paves the way for new opportunities in this part of the spectrum. We have developed methods for investigating the connection more closely in the lab,” says Helena Rodilla.
The research team that have worked on the project, named XTera, have very successfully created completely new methods for thorough exposure and analysis of biomolecules in the terahertz field. This has required everyone involved to be open and humble, respecting each other’s specific expertise, in order to be able to tackle the new transboundary field from two sides. For example, bringing living material into a lab environment that does not normally come into contact with water is a challenge.
“We soon realised that we in the team spoke different languages depending on which research background we came from. We had to learn to understand each other because it was essential for the work that we worked together, side by side. And it went well!” says Helena Rodilla.
It is hoped that the team’s research findings will in future be a useful tool with which to obtain a clearer picture of which mechanisms govern various disease progressions – and in the long run, of how to treat diseases more effectively.
About the 2016 Areas of Advance Award
With the Areas of Advance Award, the management of Chalmers wants to reward people who have performed outstanding work in transboundary cooperation and who, in the spirit of the Areas of Advance, integrate research, education and utilisation.
Over three years Aldo Jesorka’s biophysics research team and Jan Stake’s team researching THz and millimetre wave techniques have established a new, exciting research field together, and in an exemplary way have shown how multidisciplinary collaborations can break new ground. The recipients of the award are: Helena Rodilla and her colleague Josip Vukusic from MC2, and Anna Kim, Gavin Jeffries and Aldo Jesorka from Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
Text: Carolina Svensson
Pictures: Carolina Svensson, Michael Nystås