PhD Graduate Awards

Recognizing, rewarding and nurturing talent

Excellence in innovative PhD research

We team up with leading scientific associations in their respective fields for this award:

  • The American Chemical Society Division of Polymer Chemistry (ACS Poly) in the case of our materials science award.
  • The America Society of Animal Science (ASAS) in respect of our animal nutrition science award.
  • The Federation of European Nutrition Sciences (FENS) in the case of our human nutrition award.

The award not only gives PhD graduates a financial reward for their achievements, but also a platform to make a name for themselves in their chosen field. They also help participants make the all-important connection between scientific achievement and commercial and industrial success.

The Awards

Innovative PhD research in polymer technology

Awarded annually and open to PhD students and those who had recently obtained their PhD at a university in the Americas, this award was about recognizing and rewarding excellence in innovative PhD research in polymer technology. The 2019 award was presented to the winner at the American Chemical Society (ACS) national meeting in August 2019 in San Diego (CA), US.

Winner 2019

The winner of the 2019 award was Blaine McCarthy from Colorado State University. Blaine was recognized for her work on the development of more sustainable methods to make plastics using bio-derived starting materials and sunlight to drive the process. Read Blaine’s story about how her interest in science started and what the next steps in her career will be.

2019 theme: Polymers for a sustainable future

The theme for the 2019 award was "Polymers for a Sustainable Future’’. The theme spanned Nutrition & Health, Climate & Energy, and Resources & Circularity. Submissions could include, and preferably connect synthesis, characterization, engineering, material property assessment and application. Nominees were judged based on both the connection to the theme and the quality of their scientific research.

The prize

The award carried a cash prize of $5,000. The three runners-up each received $1,000. On top of their prize, all four finalists received an additional $1,000 to cover associated travel and conference registration costs.

Eligibility criteria

  • Nominations were open to current PhD students and those who had recently obtained their PhD at a university in the Americas.
  • Candidates could not have defended their PhD thesis before 1 January 2018.
  • The nominated work had to involve innovative research (fundamental or applied) in the area of Polymers for a Sustainable Future.

Selection & judging

From the total number of nominations received, four candidates were selected for the final judging round that took place during the ACS national meeting. These four candidates were invited to present their research results in a short lecture during a special DSM - ACS POLY Symposium. A judging committee comprising members from DSM and ACS POLY selected and announced the winner at a special award ceremony at the ACS meeting.

Nomination

  • Candidates had to be nominated by their PhD supervisor (one nominee per supervisor).
  • Nominations had to be accompanied by the following documents, combined into a single PDF submission:
    • A graphical abstract of the candidate’s lecture topic.
    • A list of all accepted publications, including DOI.
    • Copies of key publications (max. three) in full length (not including supplementary files).
    • The candidate’s complete curriculum vitae, including (expected) date of PhD defense.
    • A personal letter of recommendation prepared by the PhD supervisor.

Innovative PhD research in animal sciences

Awarded annually and open to PhD students and those who had recently obtained their PhD in the Americas, this award was about recognizing and rewarding excellence in innovative PhD research in the field of animal sciences. The 2019 award was presented to the winner at the annual meeting of the ASAS Midwest Section, in Omaha (NE), US in March.

Winner 2019

The winner of the 2019 awards was Chan Sol Park, from Purdue University. Chan Sol Park was recognized for his exceptional research on protein quality in experimental diets and amino acid digestibility in feed ingredients for pigs. Read Chan Sol Park’s story about how his interest in science started and what the next steps in his career will be.

2019 theme: animal nutrition contributing to sustainable animal farming

The theme for the 2019 award was ‘’Animal Nutrition contributing to Sustainable Animal Farming’’. Nominees were judged based on both the connection to the theme and the quality of their scientific research.

The prize

The award carried a cash prize of $5,000. The three runners-up each received $1,000. On top of their prize, all four finalists received an additional $1,000 to cover associated travel and conference registration costs.

Eligibility criteria

  • Nominations were open to current PhD students and those who had recently obtained their PhD at a university in the Americas.
  • Candidates could not have defended their PhD thesis before 1 January 2018.
  • The nominated work had to involve innovative research (fundamental or applied) in the area of Animal Nutrition contributing to Sustainable Animal Farming.

Selection & judging

From the total number of nominations received, four candidates were selected for the final judging round that took place during the ASAS Midwest Section, in Omaha. These four candidates were invited to present their research results in a short lecture during a special DSM/ASAS Symposium. A judging committee comprising members from DSM and ASAS selected and announced the winner.

Nomination

  • Candidates had to be nominated by their PhD supervisor (one nominee per supervisor).
  • Nominations had to be accompanied by the following documents, combined into a single PDF submission:
    • An abstract (according to ASAS guidelines) of the candidate’s lecture topic.
    • A list of all accepted publications, including DOI.
    • Copies of key publications (max. three) in full length (not including supplementary files).
    • The candidate’s complete curriculum vitae, including (expected) date of PhD defense.
    • A personal letter of recommendation prepared by the PhD supervisor.

Innovative PhD research in human sciences

Awarded annually and open to PhD students and those who had recently obtained their PhD at a university in Europe, this award was about recognizing and rewarding excellence in innovative PhD research in Human Nutrition. The 2019 award was presented to the winner at the European Nutrition Conference held by the Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS) in October 2019 in Dublin, Ireland.

Winner 2019

The winner of the 2019 award was Aoife Caffrey, from Ulster University. Aoife was recognized for her work on maternal folate nutrition and offspring brain health. Read Aoife's story about how her interest in science started and what the next steps in her career will be.

2019 theme: Personalized nutrition and novel technologies for health in the modern world

The theme for the 2019 award was ‘’personalized nutrition and novel technologies for health in the modern world’’. Nominees were judged based on both the connection to the theme and the quality of their scientific research.

The prize

The award carried a cash prize of €5,000. The three runners-up each received €1,000. On top of their prize, all four finalists received €1,000 to cover associated travel and conference registration costs.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Nominations were open to current PhD students and those who had recently obtained their PhD at a university in Europe.
  • Candidates could not have defended their PhD thesis before 1 January 2019.
  • The nominated work had to involve innovative research (fundamental or applied) in the area of personalized nutrition and novel technologies for health in the modern world.

Selection and Judging

From the total number of nominations received, four candidates were selected as finalist. These four finalists were invited to present their research results in a short lecture during a special DSM-FENS Symposium on 17 October at the European Nutrition Conference in Dublin. The judging committee comprised members from both DSM and FENS. 

Nomination

  • Candidates had to be nominated by their PhD supervisors (one nominee per supervisor). 
  • Nominations had to be accompanied by the following documents, combined into a single PDF submission:
    • An abstract of the candidate’s lecture topic.
    • A list of all accepted publications, including DOI.
    • Copies of key publications (max. three) in full length (not including supplementary files).
    • The candidate’s complete curriculum vitae, including (expected) date of PhD defense.
    • A personal letter of recommendation prepared by the PhD supervisor.

Recent PhD winners

Over the years our past winners span a huge range of topics and nationalities. Since winning, their careers have moved in equally diverse directions - from the heights of academia to major commercial success. Here's a couple of interviews with recent winners and their hopes, dreams…and a little advice along the way.

Dr. Aoife Caffrey

On Thursday 17 October, Aoife Caffrey, from Ulster University, received the DSM Science & Technology Award 2019 during the Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS) conference held in Dublin, Ireland. Aoife was recognised for the exceptional contribution of her PhD research in the field of maternal folate nutrition and offspring brain health. The work completed within this thesis included the use of magnetoencephalography (MEG); a novel brain imaging technology and the application of epigenetic techniques to explore potential biological mechanisms explaining the effects of maternal folate nutrition on offspring brain.

When and how did your interest in science start?

My interest in science started at a young age. I grew up (in London, Taipei and Dublin) in a family where ‘Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics’ was at the forefront of my upbringing and I was lucky to have parents that were very supportive and encouraging of my growing scientific interests.

Read more

“Another positive influence on my interest in nutrition science was a family friend, Ursula O’Dwyer, a registered dietitian, who worked as a Health Promotion Policy Advisor for the Department of Health in Ireland. Her position meant that she worked with world leaders in public health and acknowledged excellent scientific research with impacts on policy, which interested me greatly.”

Who is your biggest inspiration in the scientific world?

Undoubtably, my PhD supervisors Prof Kristina Pentieva and Prof Helene McNulty! They were, and continue to be, inspirational mentors to me as an early career researcher, and their support and guidance has been endless. As world-leading scientists, they have shown me the importance of conducting excellent research and ensuring that the results are disseminated for a real-world impact. I hope to one day be able to match their unwavering enthusiasm for, and achievements in, nutrition science.

Beyond my PhD supervisors, Prof Lucilla Poston CBE, King’s College London and Prof Keith Godfrey, University of Southampton, are two of my great scientific inspirations for their work in the area of maternal diet and body composition on offspring development and health throughout life, ‘Developmental Origins of Health and Disease’. Prof Poston was in fact the external examiner for my PhD viva and it was a real privilege to have the opportunity to discuss my research in depth with her earlier this year at the time of my oral examination for the award of PhD.”

Why did you decide to pursue a PhD in the field of maternal nutrition and offspring health?

“It was during my Master’s programme at Ulster University that I decided I wanted a career in science and research. Subsequently, I was fortunate to join the Folate Group under Prof Kristina Pentieva and Prof Helene McNulty who introduced me to the world of folic acid and the related B-vitamins. I worked on the FASSTT Offspring study investigating the effects of maternal folate nutrition and cognitive performance in the child at 3 and 7 years. My deep-rooted fascination in this area pushed me to investigate whether the effects on brain health in the child would persist beyond 7 years and to explore the potential biological mechanisms underpinning these effects, which formed the basis of my PhD research.”

Which societal challenges can we address with your research?

The research completed during my PhD project demonstrates potential health benefits of continuing folic acid (400 µg/d) supplementation during pregnancy, beyond the early period currently recommended to protect against neural tube defects, in terms of brain health of the offspring at 11 years. The impact of this work for society will primarily be in contributing scientific evidence to support future policy and practice in relation to folic acid recommendations for women during pregnancy. Such policy would in turn benefit pregnant mothers and their children.

The results of this research show that there are benefits for the child of continuing maternal use of folic acid throughout pregnancy, whereas current recommendations in most countries worldwide advise mothers to take folic acid supplements from before conceiving until the end of the 12th gestational week only.

What does it mean for you to win this award?

I was honoured to have been nominated by my PhD supervisors, and I am delighted to have won such a prestigious award. I am also hugely grateful to DSM to be given this wonderful opportunity to highlight our ‘maternal folate nutrition and offspring health’ research on such a global platform as the FENS conference. It was an absolute privilege for me.”

What will be the next steps in your career?

I am currently working as a Postdoctoral Researcher on the EpiBrain project at NICHE, Ulster University, building on work that was completed during my PhD studies. The EpiBrain project, ‘Epigenetic effects of B-vitamins on brain health throughout life: scientific substantiation and translation of evidence for health improvement strategies’ was awarded under the JPI HDHL scheme and funded by the BBSRC and MRC UK Research Councils. It is an international multidisciplinary project that brings together researchers in Nutrition and Genetics at Ulster University, UK; University of British Columbia, Canada; and Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain.

In the future, I hope to grow my career as an independent researcher and become an academic, working in collaboration with researchers from both industry and academia. I also aspire to follow the career paths of my supervisors and for my research to have impact.”

Blaine McCarthy

On Wednesday 28 August, Blaine McCarthy, from Colorado State University, received the DSM Bright Science Award 2019 during the American Chemical Society (ACS) Conference held in San Diego, California. Blaine was recognized for her work on the development of more sustainable methods to make plastics using bio-derived starting materials and sunlight to drive the process.

When and how did your interest in science start?

Growing up, science was always my favorite subject at school, and I was fortunate to have parents who were very supportive of my interests across the different scientific disciplinesHowever, my interest truly came to life at university. 

Read more

"When studying for my Bachelor’s degree at Clark University, I joined the lab of Professor Charles 'Chuck' Jakobsche, which turned out to be key to my decision to pursue chemistry at graduate school in Colorado. By allowing me to work on an independent project at an early stage of my undergraduate studies, Chuck introduced me to the excitement of scientific research and helped me develop the perseverance needed to overcome experimental challenges.”

Who is your biggest inspiration in the scientific world?

There are far too many to mention! In a broader sense, though, I’m inspired by 1) a handful of “famous” scientists, 2) my professors and mentors throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, and 3) women in chemistry who have demonstrated success in both their careers and personal lives.”

Why did you decide to pursue a PhD in the field of polymer sciences?

My interest stemmed from a deep-rooted fascination with the physical properties of polymeric materials and a respect for their ubiquity in our everyday lives. I continue to be fascinated by the range of macroscopic physical properties that arise from the macromolecular structures of polymers. Moreover, the utility of polymeric materials in all areas of our lives motivates me to continue working in the field of polymer science in the future.” 

Which societal challenges can we solve with your research?

We believe organocatalyzed atom transfer radical polymerization (O-ATRP), a light-driven method for the synthesis of well-defined polymers, can help in addressing multiple societal challenges, including climate change, by presenting a more economical and energy-efficient alternative to analogous, heat-driven polymerization methods.

“Specifically, we have demonstrated that bio-derived monomers can be polymerized efficiently via O-ATRP, thereby reducing society’s dependence on the petroleum-refining industry and reducing the carbon footprint of plastics production. More widely, the catalysts developed for O-ATRP methods have the potential to improve sustainability across a wide range of industries, including agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals, and could even enable the advancement of materials produced via additive manufacturing/3D printing." 

What does it mean for you to win this award?

I’m extremely grateful, as it has provided a platform for me to share my research with a broader audience of scientists. At the same time, I hope this award highlights the excellent work done by my advisor, Garret Miyake, and our research group at Colorado State University. Garret is an outstanding advisor who has given me considerable support in pursuing this award. I’m also fortunate to work with an incredible team of scientists within my research group and as part of multi-institution collaborations, many of whom have made critical contributions to the research that I presented during the award symposium.”

What will be the next steps in your career?

I’m excited to be finishing my doctoral degree this year and to be moving to the next stage of my career. I’m motivated to continue pursuing interesting and impactful research toward developing materials for a sustainable future, and energized to find a position working with colleagues who are as supportive and inspiring as my current research group.”

Chan Sol Park

On 13 March 2019, Chan Sol Park, from Purdue University, received the DSM Science & Technology Award Animal Nutrition (Americas) 2019 during the annual meeting of the ASAS Midwest Section in Omaha. Chan was recognised for his thesis on protein quality in experimental diets and amino acid digestibility in feed ingredients for pigs.

When and how did your interest in science start?

“As a child I was always interested in animals, but living in a city meant I had few opportunities see and spend time with them, so I watched a lot of nature documentaries on TV. My interest in science started around then.

Read more

"Watching these documentaries allowed me to learn many interesting facts about animals and stimulated my curiosity. When I realized that there are still a lot of unsolved questions in nature, I decided to become a person who finds the answers.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the scientific world?

There are two people who always inspire me to step forward: Dr. Beob Gyun Kim and Dr. Layi Adeola. Dr. Kim, who was my supervisor during my Master’s degree, taught me the basics and introduced me to the broad spectrum of research in animal nutrition. Dr. Adeola is currently supervising my PhD program and supporting me in improving and expanding my ideas. They always give me the best advice on how to think further, and their endless passion for research strongly motivates me to work harder.

Why did you decide to do a PhD in the field of monogastric animal nutrition?

During my Master’s program, I realized that continuous research is necessary to deal with current issues and to improve the livestock industry. In addition, I was fascinated by designing and conducting research for animal nutrition, so I decided to continue my research through a PhD program to further study monogastric animal nutrition which can contribute to the livestock industry.

Which societal challenges can we solve with your research?

The livestock industry is currently facing many issues, including regulation of the use of antibiotics, environmental pollution caused by livestock manure, and the fluctuating price of feed ingredients. Therefore, precision nutrition is necessary to cope with current issues and achieve sustainable animal farming. My research mainly focuses on improvement of nutritional supply to monogastric animals and accurate evaluation of nutritional quality in feed ingredients, all of which can contribute to maximizing the livestock production, as well as minimizing the detrimental effects on the environment and product consumers.

What does it mean for you to win this award?

It means a lot to me. I am very grateful for this award, and it will encourage me to move forward in my research. It will also always remind me of my colleagues – who give me selfless support. I could not have achieved this without their help.

What will be the next steps in your career?

My future goal is to be part of the faculty at a major research university and continue to conduct research in animal nutrition. I have studied animal nutrition under the supervision of great professors, who have helped me to develop creative and critical research competency. I would like to follow their career paths and contribute to the industry as well as education and science.

Read more

  • Bright Science Awards

    DSM's Bright Science Awards are open to PhD graduates; seasoned scientists worldwide, in everything from human & animal nutrition to materials science.

  • Experienced Scientist Awards

    The Bright Science Award for Experienced Scientists goes to seasoned scientists all over the world for their pioneering research in human and animal nutrition and materials sciences.

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer.

Learn more