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Dr. Chen Chang

DSM Science & Technology Award Europe (2012)

Senior Researcher , imec (Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre), FWO post-doctoral fellow, KU Leuven
l to r: Marcel Wubbolts, Richard Stevens, Dr. Chang Chen, Veerle Bieghs & Rob van Leen

Born in China but based now in Belgium, Chen Chang is the first Chinese winner of the DSM Science & Technology Award. While thankful and grateful for the raised profile the award has brought, he acknowledges that his work has only just begun…

Of course it’s been a different life for me. I grew up in a small village in eastern China and left my parents to attend high school at the age of 12. At that young age, I already learned how to live independently and this skill was very important when I came to Belgium to continue my studies after university in China - because it’s been quite a learning experience, especially with the language (English is spoken at imec). 

Now that I can communicate smoothly with my excellent colleagues and friendly neighbors, my life is much better and full of fun. In fact this really feels like home to me now, especially as I recently became a father. What makes it especially enjoyable is the fact that I am given enormous freedom to go out there and ‘make it happen’ with whoever I think could help me.

It’s still very early days on my project but the great thing about imec, where I am now based, is that we have a very firm focus on commercial applications and taking ideas from the lab to the industrial level.

I now have two new PhD students to help me, both in investigating new scientific strategies. We know it’s going to take some time, but we are highly motivated to succeed. We really do want to make our mark on the world.

Together with my colleagues and students, I will continue to develop innovative soft materials by applying the sacrificial bonds concept that was established through the study of double-network hydrogels. Twenty years ago, I switched from hard ceramic materials to soft hydrogel materials, as the research in the field of hydrogels is less equipment-dependent.  I feel more freedom, and gels stimulate my imagination more than hard ceramic materials.  In the future, I hope to combine both fields of research, developing a new type of soft ceramic material.

I will also devote myself to developing the practical applications for these materials in various other areas, such as in health care and biomedical fields.

“The most striking aspect of his research is that it has made an important original contribution in bringing SERS application one big step forward, thereby not only attracting academic attention but also gaining significant industrial interest.

The application potential of nanopore SERS technology goes far beyond genome detection and sequencing, and its generality has relevance to broad fields of trace molecule analysis, covering food science and pharmaceutical science.”