Interview with Neha Awasthi (IMM/One Planet)

Neha Awasthi
I am passionate about scientific innovations and solutions that make a positive difference in the real world
Neha Awasthi
Country of previous education
Current role
Project Leader/Domain Expert Biosensors nstitute for Molecules and Materials & One Planet Research Center

In September '23 Neha Awasthi, Project Leader/Domain Expert Biosensors Institute for Molecules and Materials & One Planet Research Center started. We interviewed her about her new position, the goals to achieve in her role in this and her passions.

Tell us about OnePlanet, your new job and what would you like to achieve in let’s say 2-3 years? 

OnePlanet is a multidisciplinary collaboration between Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Radboud University, Radboudumc and nano-technology world-player imec, supported by the province of Gelderland. Within One Planet Research Center we develop game changing innovations towards a society where people lead a healthy life with access to healthy and sustainable food. My goal is to strengthen the partnership between Radboud University/Faculty of Science and OnePlanet Research Center on key topics within the two themes: ‘Precision Health, Nutrition & Behavior’ and ‘Precision Agriculture, Food & Environment.

To this end, my work involves identifying new connections between our faculty and OnePlanet Research on key topics such as high-tech biosensors and facilitating discussions towards an exhaustive research plan to consolidate these connections. Furthermore, my role also consists of supporting the partnerships in successfully obtaining financial support from European, national or regional programs, and managing the projects at various stages. As an example, in preventive health, we are working together on biomarkers for the smart pill that non-invasively monitors inflammation, microbiota activity, and nutrient uptake. This project combines the biochemical/biomolecular research expertise of our faculty with the digital and high-tech sensor technology from imec. 

Notably, I work closely with several teams; with colleagues within OnePlanet/imec, and also in our faculty. I look forward to more successful research projects with regional partners (incl. industry/SMEs) and external financial support in the next 2-3 years. 

What is your background and why did you apply to this job?

I grew up in India and got inspired to study physics/mathematics due to some excellent teachers. I have had a very international and interdisciplinary professional journey ever since. I completed my PhD in Materials Physics at Duke University, USA in collaboration with Honda Research, an exciting project that applied fundamental concepts to solve an industrial problem, and where I worked in a diverse (in expertise and culture) team. Ambitious about applying theoretical models in biology, I moved to Germany to work on biophysics of cell membranes and small proteins. I won the Dorothea Schlözer research fellowship at the Georg August University, Göttingen, Germany where I used multi-scale modelling methods to elucidate the role of lipid membranes in antimicrobial drug design. 

In November 2021, I joined the team at Faculty of Science at Radboud University to establish the Interdisciplinary Research Platform (IRP). I also worked as a project manager and industrial use case coordinator for Green IT projects. Following the success of the IRP, an exciting opportunity to develop technology to improve health and environment with OnePlanet & regional partners came up. In my present role, I work together with academic and industrial research teams to reach challenging goals and discover solutions that impact life. This is what I’m passionate about: scientific innovations and solutions that make a positive difference in the real world.

For what and how can people reach you? 

As one can appreciate, faculty researchers and their ideas are at the core of my work. Are you curious how your research aligns with the program at OnePlanet? Maybe you have a specific query about digital/technology solutions that imec offers? Or you would like to know (more) about OnePlanet Research Center and working with the partners involved? If so, please send me a message. I am working between Huygens (3rd floor) and Mercator II and always happy to meet and explore ideas.

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself 

I would like to acknowledge many mentors and colleagues in the faculty for their advice and support. I cannot name everyone! I was new to Nijmegen and now well-integrated as a part of our faculty. I enjoy working here, and this gives me the optimism to move forward and achieve more together.