Prof. Dr. Nico Bruns
Nico studied Chemistry at the Universities of Freiburg (Germany) and Edinburgh (Scotland). He graduated from the University of Freiburg as Diplom-Chemiker in 2003 and, under the supervision of Prof. Joerg C. Tiller and Prof. Rolf Mülhaupt, undertook a PhD in Macromolecular Chemistry, which he obtained in 2007. In his doctoral work, Nico investigated amphiphilic polymer conetworks as nanostructured support for biocatalysis in non-aqueous media. From 2007 to 2008, he joined the group of Prof. Douglas S. Clark at the University of California, Berkeley, as Postdoctoral Researcher where he explored biotechnologically engineered protein cages as mechano-responsive sensor molecules in polymeric materials. Upon returning to Europe, Nico joined the Department of Chemistry of the University of Basel in Switzerland. From 2008 to 2013, he led an independent junior research group as Habilitand and received the Venia Docendi for Chemistry in 2014. He was awarded a Swiss National Science Foundation Professorship, which enabled him to join the Adolphe Merkle Institute as Associate Professor of Macromolecular Chemistry from 2013 to 2018. In 2018, he was appointed full Professor of Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. At the end of 2021 he moved to the Department of Chemistry of the Technical University of Darmstadt, where he now is Full Professor of Sustainable Functional Polymers.
Nico coordinates the EU-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie Doctoral Network Metal-Containing Radical Enzymes (MetRaZymes) and was coordinator of the now completed Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network Plant-Inspired Materials and Surfaces (PlaMatSu). He is a founding member and principal investigator of the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Bio-Inspired Materials as well as a principal investigator of the Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE) Bio-inspired Materials and Systems.
Nico is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and the recipient of a scholarship from the German National Academic Foundation, of a Marie Curie Fellowship, a Holcim Stiftung Wissen Habilitanden Fellowship, a Swiss National Science Foundation Professorship, and the Pfizer Research Award for Young Scientists. He was honored as Emerging Investigator by the journals Chemical Society Reviews and Journal of Materials Chemistry A. Furthermore, his Hemolytics team won the 3rd place of the Yposmed Innovation Award 2019.
Tel: +49 6151 16-21588
Location: TU Darmstadt
Conny Gräfing is the Administrative Assistant of the Sustainable Functional Polymers Research Group at TU Darmstadt.
Group Leader and Senior Scientists
Dr. Michela M. Pellizzoni
Dr. Michela M. Pellizzoni received her M.Sc. degree in Biotechnology in 2011 from the University of Milan. She earned her PhD degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2015 on the development of hybrid systems based on new chiral aminophosphine and diamine ligands and their applications in asymmetric synthesis.
After 2 year in the group of Prof. Thomas Ward in Basel working on the development of new catalytic reactions and protein scaffold engineering for in vivo catalysis with artificial metalloenzymes, in October 2017 she joined Bruns group. In this second post-doc experience she is involved in the enzymatic ATRPase project. Using chemo-genetic optimisation strategies, she is developing tailor-made catalyst for Atom Transfer Radical Polymerisation reactions.
In 2018, she received an Ambizione grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation to establish her independent academic career and to develop novel bio-inspired catalysts for controlled radical reactions under mild and physiological conditions.
Dr. Andrea Belluati
Andrea obtained his MSc in Industrial Biotechnology from the University of Turin in 2015 after carrying out his thesis work at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées in Toulouse. He then joined the group of Prof. Cornelia Palivan at the University of Basel, designing cascade reactions within polymersomes as cell and organelle mimics, being awarded his PhD in 2020. He then spent 6 months as a postdoc at the University of Chemistry and Technology of Prague, in the group of Prof. Miroslav Šoóš, working on microfluidic reactors.
In 2021, he joined the Bruns group with a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship to develop the self-encapsulation of bacteria via bioATRP and their integration into eukaryotes as endosymbionts.
Andrea’s project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 101032493.
Dr. Sètuhn Jimaja
Sètuhn obtained his MSc at ETH Zürich where he did his master thesis on the synthesis of polyphenylenes with Suzuki polycondensation. After his MSc, he undertook a 6 months internship at BASF SE (Ludwigshafen, Germany) where he worked on ring-opening polymerisation of cyclic carbonates. He then moved to the UK to undertake his PhD at the University of Warwick in the Dove group and the O’Reilly group as a joint student part of the SUSPOL-EJD Marie-Curie program (co-tutelle with the group of Prof. Taton at the University of Bordeaux) where he was researching into the synthesis of asymmetric organocatalytic nanoreactors.
He joined the Adolphe-Merkle Institute in 2020 as a joint post-doctoral researcher between the Bruns and Weder groups where he investigates the development of polymersome-based cargo carriers to deliver morphogenetic factors as part of the NCCR Bio-inspired Materials.
Dr. Anna Szelwicka
Anna graduated from Silesian University of Technology in 2016 with the master’s degree, defending a thesis entitled ‘Baeyer-Villiger oxidation of cyclic ketones to lactones using heterogeneous catalysts’ performed in Prof. Anna Chrobok’s group. In the same year she started doctoral studies in a field of biocatalysis, focusing on the development of new heterogeneous biocatalysts for fine chemicals syntheses, based on lipases and carbon nanotubes and/or ionic liquids. During her doctoral studies, she spent 5 weeks in Selvita S.A. working on carrying out organic syntheses in flow systems; 6 weeks at Queen’s University Belfast in Prof. Swadzba-Kwasny’s group (QUILL), characterizing selected ionic liquids as well as 6 weeks at University of California, Irvine in Prof. Zuzanna Siwy’s group, where she worked on squeezing ionic liquids through nanopores to determine their electrochemical properties. During her doctoral studies, she successfully applied for a project ‘Studies on the catalytic performance of biocatalysts based on supported ionic liquids’, which was financed in the framework of Preludium program (Polish National Science Centre). She is also a co-inventor of innovative technology of synthesis of ε-caprolactone, which is currently being tested in a pilot plant by Azoty Group Pulawy, Poland. After graduation, she joined Prof. Nico Bruns’ group at TU Darmstadt in January 2022, where she is working as a postdoctoral researcher within the TU Darmstadt-Merck Sustainability Hub on enzymatic degradation of polymers, exploiting protein engineering techniques.
Dr. Amin Reyhani
Amin Reyhani earned his BSc degree in chemical engineering from Sahand University of Technology, Iran, in 2010. He graduated from Sharif University of Technology, Iran, with his MSc degree in chemical engineering in 2012. He completed his Ph.D. studies in polymer chemistry at The University of Melbourne, Australia, under the supervision of Prof. Greg Qiao in July 2019 in the polymer science group (PSG). His Ph.D. research was focused on harnessing the power of Fenton chemistry in the RAFT polymerization technique. After his Ph.D., he stayed in PSG as a postdoctoral researcher, pushing the boundaries of the Fenton-RAFT technique, until July 2020. He was teaching different chemical engineering subject courses for 2 semesters in the year 2020-2021. Amin joined Prof. Nico Bruns’ group at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, as an Postdoctoral Researcher in February 2022 to work on the EPSRC-funded project titled “Intracellular Controlled Radical Polymerization”.
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Michèle completed her undergraduate studies in Chemistry at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Her Master thesis focused on lanthanide complexes for time-resolved luminescence imaging and photodynamic therapy. Currently, Michèle is working on her PhD thesis in collaboration between the groups of Dr. Luciano Boesel at Empa St. Gallen, Switzerland, the Bruns group at the University of Strathclyde/TU Darmstadt and Prof. Stefan Salentinig at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Fribourg. Her project is about light-responsive block copolymers based on Donor-Acceptor Stenhouse Adducts (DASAs) for applications in drug delivery.
Micael studied Biotechnology (BSc) at University of Aveiro, Portugal, and later graduated on Bioengineering and Nanosystems (MSc) from University of Lisbon, Portugal. Micael joined the Bruns Group as a PhD student within the NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials in 2018. He works towards triggerable catalytic entities, namely force-responsive block copolymer vesicles featuring reversible membrane permeability.
Location: TU Darmstadt
Sam completed his Master’s degree in Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde. He worked in the Bruns group on encapsulation and release of fragrances from polymersomes. He then joined the Bruns group at Strathclyde as a PhD student in 2021 to work on peptide-reinforced hydrogels in the PIRE Bio-Inspired Materials and Systems. He moved to TU Darmstadt, where he continues this project and focuses on polymersome-laden hydrogels for out-of-equilibrium-materials as a member of the NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials.
Location: TU Darmstadt
Bianca obtained her MSc in Life Science at the University of Konstanz in 2020. During her master’s program, she worked in diverse laboratories where she witnessed the massive environmental impact of research. Afterwards, she worked at the University of Konstanz and the Max Planck Institute and engaged in voluntary work of making research more sustainable.
In 2022, she received a fellowship from the Evonik Foundation to do her PhD in the Bruns group. She is investigating the effect of resource-saving-measures in laboratories with different research backgrounds.
Sara Tatiana R. Velasquez
Sara obtained her Bachelors degree in Materials Engineering at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. She followed a masters degree in Materials Science at ETH Zurich where she worked with nacre bioinspired composites. She is currently working on her PhD entitled Bio-inspired Amphiphilic Polymer Conetworks (APCNs) as part of the PIRE: Bioinspired Materials and Systems. Her research focuses on developing peptide- and cellulose nanocrystal reinforced APCNs with superior mechanical properties.
Justus P. Wesseler
Justus completed his MChem at the University of Sussex. For his Master’s project he worked on the development of a novel synthesis for N-carboxyanhydrides compatible with flow chemistry. His current PhD project concerns the development of DASA-functionalized block copolymers.
Master/Bachelor Thesis Students and Student Assistants
Technical Staff and Engineers
Location: TU Darmstadt
Michael Kickstein is Biological Technical Assistant and runs the group’s protein bio-lab.
Dr. Jonas Pollard
Jonas obtained his PhD degree in chemistry from the Adolphe Merkle Institute, University of Fribourg in 2017. From then until 2021he lead the Hemolytics project targeting the development of a novel, highly-sensitive and inexpensive malaria diagnostic device to assist malaria eradication campaigns.
Dr. Samuel Raccio
Samuel completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry at the University of Fribourg. After completing his master’s thesis on chlorophylline-catalyzed ATRP in the Bruns Group, he obtained a doctoral position in the group. Working on polymerization based amplification for bio-detection, he studyed biocatalytic precipitation polymerization reactions for malaria diagnostics. He obtained his PhD in 2020 from the University of Fribourg and continued to work as a postdoctoral researcher in the Bruns group, focusing on the malaria diagnostics technology of Hemolytics.
Dr. Peng Liu
Peng graduated from Shanghai Institute of Technology, China, in 2012 with a B.A. in Applied Chemistry. Then he joined a joint project between Shanghai Institute of Technology and Shanghai Institute of Organic Chemistry, China, for his Master thesis on asymmetric addition reactions of chiral α,β-unsaturated-N–tert-butanesulfinyl ketimines. After his Master, in 2016, he moved to University of Fribourg, Switzerland to pursue his Ph.D. under the supervisor of Prof. Dr. Andreas Kilbinger, where he worked on telechelic polymer synthesis by ring opening matethesis polymerization (ROMP). He joined the Adolphe-Merkle Institute in 2020 as a joint post-doctoral researcher between Prof. Dr. Nico Bruns, Prof. Dr. Michael Mayer and Prof. Dr. Christoph Weder groups, where he investigated block copolymer based aqueous two-phase systems for the generation of electricity as part of the NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials.
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Dr. Philip B. V. Scholten
Philip studied chemistry at the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, and obtained his master degree in 2015 studying ring-opening polymerisations of macrolactones under the supervision of Prof. Andrew P. Dove. He then undertook a PhD within the Marie Curie EJD-FunMat programme under the supervision of Dr. Christophe Detrembleur (Université de Liège, Belgium) and Prof. Michael Meier (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany). Within this EU-funded program, Philip investigated the synthesis of novel copolymers based on renewable resources and ethylene using reversible deactivation radical polymerisation, as well as novel pathways towards the combination of cellulose and industrial polyethylene using renewable compatibilisers.
Philip then joined the Adolphe Merkle Institute in 2019 as a Post-doctoral Researcher as part of the NCCR Bio-Inspired Materials, investigating polymersome-based nanocarriers for drug delivery. In 2020 he obtained a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship and worked in the group of Prof. Christoph Weder at the Adolphe Merkle Institute.
Dr. Kyle J. Rodriguez
Kyle graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 2012 with a B.A. in Chemistry. During his time there he worked as a research intern at Genocea Biosciences. In 2012, he joined Samuel Pazicni and Erik Berda’s research groups as a PhD student at the University of New Hampshire where he investigated the role of secondary sphere interactions in heme proteins using porphyrin‐cored polymer nanoparticles. After obtaining his PhD In 2017, he joined Prof. Nico Bruns’ group at the Adolphe Merkle Institute where his research focused on investigating metalloproteins for their use in controlled radical polymerizations. He continued his career as a Innosuisse Postdoctoral Fellow at EPFL and the start-up Annaida Technologies. Kyle now works for Bruker BioSpin.
- Dr. Clément Mugemana (Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST))
- Dr. Jose V. Araujo (Straumann Group, Switzerland)
- Dr. Csaba Fodor (European Patent Office, Germany)
- Dr. Maria Valentina Dinu (Petru Poni Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Romania)
- Dr. Mariana Spulber (FMC Corporation, Denmark)
- Dr. Elisa S. Noguira (Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, Switzerland)
- Dr. Katarzyna Makyła-Juzak (Jagiellonian University, Poland)
- Dr. Marzena Kocik
- Dr. Gergely Kali (Saarland University, Germany)
Dr. Chao Guo
Chao got his Master degree from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) and then joined the Bruns Group with a protein engineering background. His PhD project focused on tuning metalloenzymes for biocatalytic atom transfer radical polymerizations (bioATRP) and for peroxidase reactions. After his graduation in 2021 he joined the Rosalind Franklin Institute as Postdoctoral Research Associate in Chemical Biology.
Dr. Robert J. Chadwick
Rob was awarded his Masters in Applied Chemistry (MChem) with first class honours from Northumbria University, Newcastle, in July 2018. His masters project was titled ‘Synthesis of Novel Thermoresponsive Hydrogels based on NIPAAm and PVCL’. In 2018, he joined the Bruns group to work in the biocatalytic ATRP team, and graduated from the University of Strathclyde in 2021. He continued his career as Postdoctoral Researcher in the Group of Prof. Javier Read de Alaniz at the University of California Santa Barbara.
Livia K. Bast
Livia obtained her Master’s degree in Chemistry from the TU University Dortmund, Germany, where she worked on polymer-antibiotic conjugates (PACs). Since 2016, she’s been working in Nico Bruns’ research group, doing her PhD within the ITN PlaMatSu (Plant-inspired Materials and Surfaces). Sadly, Livia passed away in a mountain hiking accident in 2021.
- Dr. Samuel Raccio (Adolphe Merkle Institute and Hemolytics, Switzerland)
- Dr. Bernadetta Gajewska (Janssen Europe, Switzerland)
- Dr. Edward A. Apebende (University of Nottingham, UK)
- Dr. Sebastian E. Ulrich (Merck, Switzerland)
- Dr. Omar Rifaie-Graham (Imperial College London, UK)
- Dr. Jonas Pollard (Adolphe Merkle Institute and Hemolytics, Switzerland)
- Dr. Martin Rother (Florina AG, Switzerland)
- Dr. Martin G. Nussbaumer (Lonza, Switzerland)
- Dr. Smahan Toughraï (Agidens, Switzerland)
- Dr. Kasper Renggli (Philip Morris International, Switzerland)
Master Thesis Students (from 2018 onwards)
Marie Le Dot
Marie was an Erasmus+ Master student from Toulon University in France. She joined the Bruns group at the University of Strathclyde for her Master thesis on bio-inspired amphiphilic polymer conetworks in 2020.
Jobbe was an Erasmus+ Master student from Hasselt University in Belgium. He joined the Bruns group at the University of Strathclyde for his Master thesis on force-responsive polymersomes in 2019-2020.
Location: University of Strathclyde
Elisabeth is a Final Year Chemistry Student of the University of Strathclyde. She joined the Bruns group for her Master thesis on bio-inspired amphiphilic polymer conetworks in 2020.
Location: University of Strathclyde
Thomas is a Final Year Chemistry Student of the University of Strathclyde. He joined the Bruns group for his Master thesis on novel recycling strategies for fiber-reinforced composites in 2020.
- Thanh Quy Dang
- Prof. Farzad Seidi (Nanjing Forestry University (NJFU), China)