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Cymraeg

Boost for world-leading microscopy project

21 July 2010

A Cardiff University researcher has secured a highly sought-after Leadership award which could propel her research onto the world stage.

Dr Paola Borri, Cardiff School of Biosciences, is a physicist working in the area of biophotonics at the interface between life and physical sciences

Now, she has won a £1.1M Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Leadership Award for the next five years. This will support her own research, along with a research associate, two PhDs and resources for a research programme. The School of Biosciences is backing up the award by introducing a lecturership post as part of the team.

EPSRC Leadership Fellowships support talented researchers with the potential to develop into international leaders who can set new research agendas. Announcing the new fellowships, Minister of State for Universities and Science David Willetts said: "Supporting talented scientists and engineers throughout their careers is crucial to driving the UK’s science base and economy forward.

"These prestigious fellowships are an important investment for the future, and will help us develop innovative technologies and solutions for the major challenges ahead, and secure our place as global winners."

Dr Borri will use this award to develop a new "optical nanoscopy" technology to determine the intrinsic chemical composition of nanoscale regions in living cells. It will allow living cells to be studied in greater detail without the need for fluorescent staining, which is used in current techniques and can affect the cells being studied.

The new technology should open the way to studying a range of biological and medical problems which are impossible with present technology. These include questions about cell membranes which may have implications for HIV and influenza. The technique should also help with IVF and cancer research, where fluourophore labelling cannot be used.

Dr Borri said: "I feel highly honoured to have received such an award. The field was very competitive – I believe there were initially more than 650 outline proposals with the intention to award up to 50 Fellowships. It is very exciting to have the opportunity to dedicate my full skillset full time to drive this technology challenge to success. This research will progress the field of optical microscopy, advance our understanding in physics and material sciences, and will tackle biomedical problems that are virtually impossible to address with currently available techniques."

Professor Ole Petersen, Director of the School of Biosciences, said: "This award is a tremendous success for Paola and we are delighted for her. These awards are extremely keenly competed for. This research programme promises to help scientists solve a whole array of difficult questions – and also to establish Paola among the very best in the world in her field. The School is pleased to be supporting her project with the establishment of the new lectureship post."

-ENDS-

For further information, please contact:

Dr Paola Borri

School of Biosciences

Cardiff University

BorriP@cardiff.ac.uk

029 2087 9356

Jessica Kelly

Public Relations Office

Cardiff University

KellyJA@cardiff.ac.uk

029 2087 0298

Notes to editors:

Cardiff School of Biosciences

Cardiff’s School of Biosciences holds a world-leading reputation, addressing major questions which face health and life scientists. In 2007, one of its members, Professor Sir Martin Evans, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his ground-breaking discovery of stem cells. Professor Sir Martin has helped build a strong research base in stem cell research and regenerative medicine at the School. Other major research areas include biodiversity and ecology, with significant discoveries about some of the world’s most endangered species. The School also houses the Common Cold Centre, the world’s only centre dedicated to flu and the common cold. The School has achieved top gradings in national, independent ratings of its teaching of biology, biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, and its pre-clinical training for doctors and dentists. It also has an extensive programme of public engagement, so that the NHS, industry and the general public can learn more about its research.