GÖCH-Prize for best doctoral thesis

Dr. Martina Schroffenegger defended her Ph.D. thesis on “Interactions of Thermoresponsive Iron Oxide Core-Shell Nanoparticles” at the Department of Nanobiotechnology in January 2019. She was given the yearly award from the Gesellschaft Österreichischer Chemiker (GÖCH) at the “Österreichischen Chemietage” in Linz for her thesis.

The number of potential applications of thermoresponsive core-shell nanoparticles has increased dramatically in recent years. In her thesis, Dr. Martina Schroffenegger showed that the high curvature of nanoparticles affects how the polymer shells used to control the interactions of nanoparticles behave. It determines how they cluster with each other, interact with proteins, and are taken up by cells.

To demonstrate this, she synthesized several novel types of polymer shells on magnetic nanoparticles with precise control of physical properties such as size and chemical properties such as composition. Dr. Schroffenegger also used new methods and developed precision synthesis to elucidate how temperature changes the structure of the nanoparticle shell with nanometer resolution.

Finally, her work broke new ground by the design and synthesis of the first core-shell nanoparticles that show no interactions with blood serum proteins. This was accomplished by grafting cyclic instead of the traditional linear polymers to the nanoparticle surface.

In summary, the findings make possible the design of a whole new generation of thermoresponsive contrast agents and drug delivery vehicles. Dr. Schroffenegger’s thesis was supervised by Prof. Erik Reimhult at the Institute for Biologically Inspired Materials.