The winner’s name was announced today in an event held at the PCB Science Park in Barcelona and attended by more than a hundred people. The jury announced its decision this afternoon, highlighting Héctor Gómez Díaz’s contribution to the development of mathematical modelling and algorithms for numerical simulation in computational engineering that can be applied to provide personalised predictions of prostate cancer growth.
The jury was chaired by philosopher Adela Cortina and formed of professor of theoretical physics and president of the European University Association (EUA), Rolf Tarrach; researcher and mathematician Alberto Enciso (FPdGi Scientific Research Award in 2014); biologist and entrepreneur Cristina Garmendia; and the director of the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia, Miquel Àngel Pericàs.
On hearing the verdict, Héctor Gómez, who defines himself as a computational engineer, mentioned his “pride in having been awarded such a prestigious prize, which will bring great visibility” to the field of “predictive, analytical and simulation science, which has such a long way to go”.
Héctor Gómez: The meteorologist of cancer
To explain his journey since he graduated in civil engineering until he began to apply his knowledge to biomedicine, Héctor Gómez uses the metaphor of meteorology: “Today, nobody is surprised that we can accurately forecast the weather for the next few days. Well, in my job I try to do the same for the evolution of cancer, to predict when it is going to become a real problem and, therefore, plan the correct treatment”.
The award, which last year went to researcher Sílvia Osuna for opening up a new way to reduce the cost of producing drugs using computational chemistry, recognises the work of young scientists with outstanding experiences or research projects in their discipline that are entrepreneurial, innovative and show strong potential for future development.
The event at the PCB Science Park in Barcelona
The announcement event for the 2017 FPdGi Scientific Research Award began at three o’clock in the afternoon with a workshop designed by entrepreneur Xavier Verdaguer (Imagine Creative Center) which set the participants the following challenge: How can we increase the presence of women at the forefront of scientific research? The young people taking part divided up into teams and worked against the clock with just 100 minutes to design a project that would successfully resolve the problem they had been presented with. The winners of this particular ‘ideas marathon’ were the Scientific Friendly team, who proposed creating a website to connect scientists living abroad and which would help them to find a home, a school for their children and share a network of professional contacts. The winners of the challenge received an accrediting diploma. According to Verdaguer, founder of the company Imagine which has six years’ experience promoting innovation projects for businesses, the challenge helps young people to discover that “with team work and method, they can create productive ideas”.
After the workshop, the presenter, actor and director Àngel Llàcer led a talk about the future of scientific research with the participation of some of the previous winners of the Princess of Girona Foundation Awards in the Scientific Research category: expert researcher in nanotechnology Samuel Sánchez (2015 edition); mathematician Alberto Enciso (2014 edition); and scientist Guadalupe Sabio (2012 edition).
Award winner’s biography
Héctor Gómez Díaz (Lugo, 1980) is a civil engineer and doctor from the Universidade da Coruña. He has been a visiting professor at the Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences in Texas (USA) and full professor at the Universidade da Coruña. Currently, he is an associate professor at Purdue University. He has received numerous international awards and recognitions such as the Starting Grant from the European Research Council, the Juan C. Simó award for best young researcher in computational mechanics, the Agustín de Betancourt award for best researcher under 40 in any field of engineering, and he has been selected as one of MIT Technology Review’s ‘Innovators under 35’.
Héctor has dedicated much of his career to computational engineering, particularly its use in the field of medicine. One example of his achievements is the MuSIC project, which uses very complex equations, a huge amount of data and large-scale computer simulations to generate a personalised prediction of prostate cancer growth. The project adopts the philosophy of a new trend known as predictive medicine. A fundamental innovation in MuSIC is that it develops and validates its methodology using specific anatomies and data for each patient, a previously unexplored idea in the field of prostate cancer.
The FPdGi Awards tour kicked off last week in Córdoba with the announcement of the Arts and Literature Award winner, which recognised artist Juan Zamora for his aesthetic approach and choice of basic materials which allow him to create a polyphony of meanings that are not bound to just one culture. Zamora, who defines himself as a “nomadic and multifaceted artist” combines digital visual art with sculpture, installations and drawing.
After stopping in Córdoba and Barcelona, the FPdGi Awards tour will arrive in Soria on 30 March where the winner of the Social category will be announced in an event presided over by Her Majesty the Queen of Spain. The winners tour will also visit Santander, where the FPdGi Business Award will be announced (6 April) and will end in Figueres on 24 April with the announcement of the International Organisation category.
The Princess of Girona Foundation Awards, with a prize of €10,000 and a reproduction of a sculpture by Juan Muñoz, recognise the innovative and exemplary work of young people aged between 16 and 35 years, and that of an organisation in the European Union working for young people. The awards will be presented on 29 June in a ceremony presided over by Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain at the Girona Conference Centre.