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María Escudero and Guillermo Mínguez, 2018 FPdGi Scientific Research Award ex aequo

The jury highlighted the two young people’s great capacity for research and praised them for being role models who encourage scientific talent to remain in the country.

21/02/2018

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Chemical engineer María Escudero Escribano and chemist Guillermo Mínguez Espallargas have been named joint winners of the 2018 Princess of Girona Foundation (FPdGi) Scientific Research Award. The winners’ names were announced today in an event held at the University of Seville’s assembly hall in the presence of more than 170 people. The jury highlighted the winners’ brilliant scientific careers and praised them for being role models for Spain’s young people.

During his speech, the chairman of the jury, physicist Rolf Tarrach, emphasised the need for society and the country’s authorities to invest in research so that our scientists do not move to other countries where they currently have more opportunities.

Regarding María Escudero, the jury mentioned “her work developing electrochemical catalysts based on metal nanoparticles that could replace noble metals to reduce costs and increase efficiency in processes for obtaining clean energy.” They also recognised the “scientific, technological, energy-generation and social impact of her work, which will contribute towards slowing climate change.”

In turn, the jury recognised Guillermo Mínguez for his work designing hybrid molecular sieves that allow tailored nanostructured materials to be synthesised. They highlighted the impact of his work on magnetic metallic organic frameworks (MOF), from his fundamental study to its application in sensors and catalysis. According to the jury “the new porous materials developed will have a huge impact in fields such as the environment and energy.”

The jury, who met this morning at the University of Seville to deliberate, was formed of physicist and president of the European University Association Rolf Tarrach (who acted as chairman of the jury)biochemist Fátima Bosch, chemist Avelino Corma, philosopher Adela Cortina, cardiologist and general manager of CNIC, Valentí Fuster, sociologist Emilio Lamo de Espinosa, researcher and 2015 FPdGi Scientific Research Award winner, Samuel Sánchez and physicist Lluís Torner.

The event, organised by the FPdGi in collaboration with the University of Seville’s Social Council, was attended by the Government of Andalusia’s minister of Economy and Knowledge, Antonio Ramírez de Arellano; the rector of the University of Seville, Miguel Ángel Castro; the deputy mayor of Equality, Youth and Relations with the University Community, Myriam Díaz Rodríguez; the president of the FPdGi, Francisco Belil and other authorities and important figures from civil society and the university and scientific spheres.

The announcement of the 2018 FPdGi Scientific Research Award was presented by journalist and humourist Juan Carlos Ortega with the participation of researcher Guadalupe Sabio (2012 FPdGi Scientific Research Award) and researcher Borja Ibáñez (2010 FPdGi Scientific Research Award).

To round off the event, the speakers emphasised the important work being carried out by the University of Seville to promote science and its development in the region, as well as publicising it through, for example, awards such as this one from the foundation. The president of the FPdGi, Francisco Belil, reminded the audience of the importance of encouraging young researchers currently working abroad to return to our country.

 

CHALLENGE IN SEVILLE

Before the public announcement ceremony for the 2018 FPdGi Scientific Research Award, the University of Seville hosted an entrepreneurial challenge in which a hundred young people from Andalusia were given 180 minutes to come up with innovative ideas capable of “raising awareness of the important role of science in society.” This activity, which took place between 9 am and 12 midday in the Faculty of Philology, forms part of the special programme designed by the FPdGi for the announcement of the 2018 FPdGi Scientific Research Award. Entrepreneur Xavier Verdaguer from Imagine Creativity Center – a company specialising in promoting innovation projects for other businesses – ran this creative innovation workshop using the Lombard method, a system he designed himself which consists of going through different phases in order to turn a problem into an opportunity. The phases in this methodology include formulating the problem, brainstorming, creating a prototype and learning to publicise the project.

In teams, the participants worked against the clock to design a project that would successfully resolve the problem they had been presented with. The winning team in this workshop challenge was ‘Master Scientist’, who presented an original proposal in which the worlds of sport and science come together to generate scientific awareness in society and avoid the brain drain of talented young people.

WINNERS’ BIOGRAPHIES

María Escudero Escribano (Cáceres, 1983)- Recognised for her work developing electrochemical catalysts based on metal nanoparticles that could replace noble metals to reduce costs and increase efficiency in processes for obtaining clean energy. The jury highlighted the scientific, technological, energy-generation and social impact of her work, which will contribute towards slowing climate change.

María Escudero Escribano graduated as a chemical engineer from the University of Extremadura and holds a PhD in Chemistry from the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAB). During her doctorate, she was an intern at the Residencia de Estudiantes and spent time as a visiting researcher at Argonne National Laboratory (United States) and the University of Ulm (Germany). In 2012, she continued her training at the Technical University of Denmark and, in 2014, she was awarded the Sapere Aude - Research Talent grant from the Danish Government, thanks to which she was able to spend two years at Stanford University (United States). Since March 2017, she has been a professor at the University of Copenhagen, where she leads the Nano-electrochemical group. She has published her work in journals such as Science, she holds three patents and has received numerous research awards, including the 2016 European Young Chemist Award and the 2018 American Electrochemical Society’s Energy Technology Division Young Investigator Award.

Dr. Escudero is researching new materials which, through electrochemical reactions, allow us to obtain clean energy and produce sustainable chemical and combustible compounds. Her main aim is to design and optimise the active site of catalysts for specific reactions in energy conversion devices such as fuel cells and electrolysers.

Guillermo Mínguez Espallargas (Seville, 1981) - Recognised for his work designing hybrid molecular sieves that allow tailored nanostructured materials to be synthesised. The jury highlighted the impact of his work on magnetic metallic organic frameworks (MOF), from his fundamental study to its application in sensors and catalysis. The new porous materials developed will have a huge impact in fields such as the environment and energy.


Guillermo Mínguez Espallargas graduated in Chemistry from the University of Seville and holds a PhD from the University of Sheffield (United Kingdom). He is currently a Ramón y Cajal researcher at the Institute of Molecular Science at the University of Valencia where he is leading four research projects. Dr. Mínguez Espallargas’ research focuses on developing new porous materials that are conceptually different to those that currently exist, with the aim of allowing the highly selective storage of certain gases, which can therefore be applied to the separation of gases. Harnessing magnetic properties allows the incorporation of these gas molecules to be detected, thereby developing sensors. These achievements could have a profoundly positive impact in areas such as the environment and energy generation.

 

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