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Marie Curie Awards 2005: Rewarding mobile researchers at the knowledge frontier

Dublin, the home of roving Irish laureates, played host to laureates of a different sort: the five winners of this year's Marie Curie Awards for mobile research excellence which aim to enhance the visibility and attractiveness of research careers.

With as many Irish reputed to be living outside the country’s borders as within them, Ireland can be said to know a thing or two about mobility. It is perhaps fitting that Dublin – a city that has produced a host of literary and scientific geniuses, including James Joyce (literature), William Hamilton (mathematician, physicist and astronomer) – hosted this year’s Marie Curie Awards.

2005 Marie Curie Awards winners

The prizes – which first began in 2003 and are open to anyone who has received an EU-backed Marie Curie fellowship grant – honour former Marie Curie fellows who have achieved particular excellence in their research.

This year’s winners were Arno Rauschenbeutel from Germany, Emmanouil Anagnostou from Greece, Maria Pia Cosma from Italy, Sofía Calero from Spain and Juan Bolaños also from Spain.

“The Marie Curie Awards demonstrate that excellent researchers from Europe have enormous scientific potential. Marie Curie schemes efficiently contribute to offer attractive career opportunities for researchers in Europe,” commented EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik.

The chair of the jury, astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars (rotating neutron stars), noted that the Marie Curie laureates would set an example for aspiring scientists. “Europe needs its researchers and I’m sure that these winners, as was the case for winners in previous years, will promote a positive image of science for other young people,” she said.

“There is a gap between the public and science which needs bridging,” she continued. “It’s important to tell people what it’s like to be a scientist, about the human dimension of science – the story behind the discovery.”

Lifting the veil

Each of the winners was a former Marie Curie fellow who spent part of his or her career conducting research abroad. Below is a brief profile of each.

Emmanouil Anagnostou

For Emmanouil Anagnostou, mobility has been a way of life. He moved from his native Greece to the USA, where he did his PhD and worked for NASA. His MC fellowship brought him back to Europe to study flood forecasting. He won his award for advancing the uses of remote sensing in global water and energy cycle research. He is on sabbatical leave from his position as tenured associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of the University of Connecticut (USA). He is now in Greece where he works at the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research with the help of a Marie Curie Reintegration Grant. "Returning to Greece was primarily for personal reasons. But that, alone, is not enough, you need professional stimulation, too," he noted. "The quality of research in Greece has progressed a lot in recent years."

Juan Bolaños
Juan Bolaños has set himself perhaps the ultimate challenge in science: using his brain to unlock the secrets of the human brain. He became involved in the neurosciences because he considered that there was a lack of scientific knowledge about the brain at the molecular level, and this could only be addressed if scientists from different countries put their heads together. His award was for research into the role of nitric oxide in neurodegeneration. “Not everyone realises that very basic research is also important to society,” he noted. “This award will give me the opportunity to translate to society what I am doing.”
Sofía Calero

Sofía Calero won her prize for developing a computational approach to the design of novel multifunctional nanomaterials which allows researchers to experiment on a computer before putting their ideas into practice. Calero was an MC fellow in the Netherlands and she currently heads a research team at the University Pablo de Olavide in Seville (ES). “As a woman, you constantly have to prove yourself,” she observed. “This award is going to make my group permanent.”

Maria Pia Cosma

Maria Pia Cosma, who won her prize for her research into molecular and cellular genetics, was an MC fellow in Vienna (AT). She now works at the non-profit Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine (TIGEM) institute in Naples (IT), where she set up her own research group in 2003. She considers that “mobility and exchanges between people are the soul of a research institute’s success”. She is pleased with the prestige that comes with the prize. “This prize involves visibility and, being from the south of Italy, this is an important issue. This will enable me to network and interact with other scientists in my field.”

Arno Rauschenbeutel

Arno Rauschenbeutel, who took up an MC fellowship in France before returning to his native Germany, won his award for his frontier work in quantum computing. He believes that winning the award will help him take a quantum leap forward with his career. “I am trying to get a permanent position and this award will help me in my negotiations,” he explained. Although he would prefer to live in France or Germany, where he knows the local language and culture, he explains that jobs as research group leader do not grow on trees and he will follow the best opportunities wherever they may arise. “When you want a permanent position, you have to be ready to move.”

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last update: 12-12-2005