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Europe

Science & Technology Award Europe

Awarded annually and open to PhD students, this award is about recognizing and rewarding excellence in innovative PhD research in various fields that interest DSM. The chosen field for 2016 was Polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) nutrition and related topics.
(l to r) DSM's Norman Salem, Jr., Evan Lewis, Raphael Chouinard-Watkins, Linda Malan, Roel Mocking, DSM's Peter Weber

This year we welcomed 26 nominations related to PhD research in either human or animal studies, as well as those involving more basic or mechanistic work relevant to PUFA nutrition. Of these 26 nominees, 4 finalists were selected by an independent jury to present their work during the DSM Symposium at the International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids (ISSFAL) 2016 Congress in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

It was widely agreed that all four of the DSM Science and Technology Award finalists did an excellent job of presenting their very high quality research studies. The presentations covered the full range of nutrition research from micronutrient studies in children and EFAs for psychiatry or in neuropathies to more basic studies of DHA metabolism.

Raphael Chouinard-Watkins

Raphael Chouinard-Watkins was judged to be the overall winner in his studies of mechanisms underlying Alzheimer's disease. His studies used known genetic variations in the APO E allele that are related to disease incidence and studied their metabolic in mice. His work helped us to better understand these underlying factors relating to the disease and was highly translational. His work was very well presented and he handled questions from all five judges with pointed and clear answers while adding additional observations and data to the discussion.

All participants as well as the ISSFAL Society leadership were very pleased with the award and the support and encouragement of these bright young scientists.

About the 2016 winner

As a B.Sc. graduate in Pharmacology, Raphael Chouinard-Watkins has always been fascinated by the fields of medicine and nutrition. He was especially interested in studying the association between specialized nutrients consumption and disease prevention. At the time, his research interest was focused on omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs).

At the end of his undergraduate program, he started a M.Sc. program in the group of Prof Stephen C. Cunnane at Sherbrooke University, Canada. Prof Cunnane is a leading researcher in the field of PUFA metabolism and there he learned the basics of lipid analyses and fatty acid biology in his laboratory.

After his M.Sc. in 2012, he started a Ph.D. in the group of Prof Mélanie Plourde at Sherbrooke University, Canada. The four years spent in her laboratory confirmed his intention to pursue a career in the field of nutrition and lipid research. After graduating in August 2016 he has started a postdoctoral fellowship with Prof Richard P. Bazinet at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Previous winner

In 2015 we granted the award to Dr. Mehdi Sadaghian Sadabad for his PhD research "Interaction between the Gut and its Microbiota in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)" which he conducted at the University of Groningen under the supervision of Dr. H.J.M. Hermie Harmsen.

A summary of the key details:

The Prize

The winner received €5,000 in cash and the three runners-up each received €1,000. Nominations were open to PHD students and all those who recently obtained their PhD.

Nominees

Students were nominated by their professor supervisor.

Selection process

The nominees for the DSM Science & Technology Award Europe were:

  • Roel J. T. Mocking –University of Amsterdam
    Utilizing fatty acids and their relation with other pathophysiological mechanisms to improve understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders.
    Ph.D. Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Aart Schene
  • Raphael Chouinard-Watkins, Ph.D. – University of Sherbrooke
    PUFA metabolism disturbances in apolipoprotein E epsilon 4 carriers: evidence from human and animal studies.
    Ph.D. Supervisor: Professor Melanie Plourde
  • Linda Malan, Ph.D. – North West University South Africa
    DHA/EPA supplementation prevents iron-induced infectious morbidity and reduces inflammatory signaling in children: a randomized controlled trial.
    Ph.D. Supervisor: Professor Marius Smuts
  • Evan J. H. Lewis, Ph.D. – University of Toronto
    Omega-3 supplementation as a therapy for diabetic neuropathy: Results from a clinical pilot trial.
    Ph.D. Supervisor: Professor Thomas Wolever