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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry


Photo of Silvia Vignolini courtesy Nathan Pitt

Dr Silvia Vignolini has been awarded a prestigious Philip Leverhulme prize for her research into bio-inspired optical materials.

The Philip Leverhulme prizes honour early career researchers whose work has had international impact and whose future research career is exceptionally promising. Professor Gordon Marshall of The Leverhulme Trust said: "I congratulate Dr Viignolini most warmly; the award of a Prize reflects compelling recognition of her research achievements."

Dr Vignolini is pictured at the award event in London on 11 March 2020, flanked by Deputy Head of Department Nick Bampos, left, and Head of Department James Keeler, right.

The Vignolini research group investigates how colour is produced in nature through complex structures. They are working to recreate these processes in the lab through "bio-mimetic materials" which produce brilliant and striking colours without chemical pigmentation.  The group has been using cellulose as a new photonic material to develop structures with vivid colours or that appear ultra-white - all without environmentally damaging or high-cost additives. 

"I was incredibly happy when I got the news," said Silvia. "I was in Japan and could not sleep because of the jet lag, so I was checking my emails in the middle of the night and my mood instantly changed!"  The prize, which is worth £100,000, may be used for any purpose related to the advance of her research.  "The prize will help my research group continue our search to understand how polysaccharides like cellulose creat hierarchical structures in cell walls," she said.

Silvia Vignolini received the KINGFA Young Investigator Award in 2018, which recognises outstanding contributions by young investigators to the science and chemical technology of cellulose and renewable materials, and also holds a BBSRC David Phillips fellowship.