Prof. Marek Samoć – FNP PRIZE LAUREATE 2016
Prof. Marek Samoć from the Faculty of Chemistry at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology has received the Foundation for Polish Science Prize 2016 in the chemical and material sciences for research on nanostructural materials for nonlinear optics.
Prof. Marek Samoć (born in 1951 in Kalisz) is a chemist and head of the Advanced Materials Engineering and Modelling Group of the Faculty of Chemistry at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology. Marek Samoć began his scientific career at the Faculty of Chemistry at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology, where he obtained his PhD and postdoctoral degree.
During his postdoctoral fellowship at the National Research Council of Canada in 1979–1980 he gained experience working with lasers and focused on research on the interactions of laser light with matter. In the 1980s he conducted research in the United States at Dartmouth College and SUNY Buffalo. In 1991–2008 he worked at the Laser Physics Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra. There he cofounded a team conducting pioneering research on the nonlinear optical properties of organometallic compounds.
In 2008 he returned to his alma mater, creating a dynamic new research team there thanks to a grant under the WELCOME programme of the Foundation for Polish Science.
He is a winner of numerous grants, including ones under the MISTRZ/MASTER programme (2013) of the Foundation for Polish Science and the MAESTRO programme of the National Science Centre.
The Foundation for Polish Science Prize is awarded for Prof. Marek Samoć’s discovery of unusual optical properties of nanomaterials. They can be used for example in transforming optical signals, biological imaging, and conversion of energy.
Prof. Samoć is a specialist in physical chemistry, involved in research on new materials for optoelectronics and photonics. These materials are composed of objects of nanometric dimensions whose structural organization can be strictly controlled. Thanks to the modifying of the nonlinear optical properties of nanomaterials by external stimuli, it is possible to build molecular logic systems or sensors.
Samoć studies nanostructures of varying nature: plasmonic nanoparticles, semiconductor quantum dots, nanocrystals containing lanthanide ions, and structures containing biological molecules, such as proteins and DNA. Plasmons are quasiparticles forming in nanostructures of metallic nature whose properties may be exploited, for example in sensors for detecting various molecules or proteins. Semiconductor quantum dots and nanostructures containing ions of rare earth metals also display interesting properties of light emission when stimulated by a laser beam with the right properties. In nanomedicine, this is the foundation for development of “theranostic” systems combining diagnostic and therapeutic properties. They can be used to deliver a dose of medicine to cancer cells, activate therapeutic processes, and at the same time check how widespread the cancer is and whether the therapy is achieving the desired results.
Prof. Samoć’s research accomplishments have deep practical significance. Thanks to effects discovered by him, new materials for photonics applications may enable more effective transmission and processing of information, and 3rd-generation electric batteries may become cheaper, more powerful and more ecological. Potential applications of nanophotonics in medicine include diagnosis of cancer, delivering drugs directly to tumor cells, and progress in photodynamic therapy, where a medicine is activated by light, and in detecting amyloids that cause Alzheimer’s disease.
An article by Prof. Marek Samoć on detection of amyloid structures through their nonlinear optical response to femtosecond laser impulses has contributed greatly to increasing knowledge of Alzheimer’s. The appearance of protein deposits in the brain in the form of beta amyloid is linked with neurodegenerative disorders. They are very hard to detect. The potential practical importance of the discoveries of this Polish scientist has made his article one of the most popular ever published in Nature Photonics.
Samoć also designs unique, advanced setups for optical measurements. They form the equipment of the laser physics lab which he established—one of the world’s leading centres for research on nonlinear optics.
Prof. Marek Samoć’s papers in the chemistry of nanomaterials have been published in such journals as Nano Letters and Advanced Materials. His articles have been cited over 7,000 times, ranking him among the top 20 most cited Polish chemists.