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Doctoral Thesis Award goes to Hanna Thomsen


The Faculty of Science’s 2019 Doctoral Thesis Award goes to Hanna Thomsen at the Department of Chemistry and Molecular Biology. Her doctoral thesis is about using light as a tool to study biological mechanisms, from the minutest level to tissue and organisms. The ultimate aim is to develop new pharmaceuticals to combat microbial infections.

Hanna ThomsenHow does it feel to receive this year’s Doctoral Thesis Award?
It feels good! I am grateful for the experiences and opportunities I gained when studying at the University of Gothenburg and it is an honour to know that my research has made an impact and may help society in a meaningful way.

What is your research about?
My research is in the field of biophotonics. I used the method to conduct fundamental studies of biological mechanisms from a subcellular level to tissue and organisms.

What are the challenges in your field of research?
There are many challenges! Just working with living cells and bacteria can be a little tricky. A lot of work also went into the use of specific light techniques, something that is relatively new to the field. Understanding light interaction with biological systems was another challenge. It and required a lot of work on controls, method verification and work "leading up" to an actual photopharmaceutical study.

How might your research benefit society?
We have to continue to ask questions! We will not advance if we just accept what we already know. It is vital that we question, evaluate and think outside conventional parameters in order to gain a deeper understanding of the basic mechanisms of infection and disease – and this thought process paves the way for valuable advances in medicine.

What are you doing now?
I am about to start work as a postdoc at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where I will be continuing my work on photodynamic therapy, with a focus on cancer. I will also continue to develop the application of phototherapy for bacterial infections. I am so pleased that I get to continue working on the interaction between light and biology.

The Faculty of Science’s Doctoral Thesis Award recognises successful and novel research that is presented in a well-written thesis. The author receives a diploma and a prize.

The Faculty of Science explains the decision to award Hanna Thomsen the prize for best doctoral thesis 2019 as follows:

"Hanna Thomsen’s thesis “Biophotonics Targeting Pharmaceutical Challenges” focuses on the topics of photopharmaceutical and antimicrobial delivery studies. During her interdisciplinary thesis work, Thomsen has made significant discoveries, including new mechanistic insights providing pieces to the puzzle on how to potentially fight antimicrobial resistance mechanisms in the future. The study of light-matter interactions in life science, called biophotonics, enables fundamental studies of biological mechanisms from the smallest subcellular level, up to tissues and organisms. In her work, Thomsen has employed light as a tool to enable localized photopharmaceutical release, targeting the development of novel antimicrobial systems.
Thomsen has taken initiative and been deeply involved in highly interdisciplinary and collaborative work, bridging research in fundamental chemistry and microbiology, as well as participating in international collaborations."

The award will be presented via supervisor Marica Ericson on the Faculty Day in November 2019.