ETH doctoral student wins Zurich’s Falling Walls Lab

24.09.2014 | News

By:  Anna Maltsev

On Tuesday evening, 13 upcoming young scientists presented their projects at the Falling Walls Lab in Zurich. ETH doctoral student Mattias Ivarsson was declared the winner and has been awarded the chance to present his winning molecule at the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin on 8 November.

Mattias Ivarsson Falling Walls Lab Zurich  
An adept speaker: Mattias Ivarsson (D-CHAB) wins the Falling Walls Lab in Zurich. (Photo: Bob Klenk)

A three-minute time slot, three PowerPoint slides and one goal: to convince the jury of the merits of their research project. Yesterday evening, 13 young researchers from various different countries took up this challenge at the Falling Walls Lab in Zurich. An interdisciplinary jury judged the presentations on the basis of their potential to make a difference to society, while the audience also had the chance to vote for their favourites.

Mattias Ivarsson managed to win over both the jury and the general audience. The ETH doctoral student (from the Department of Chemistry and Applied Biosciences, D-CHAB) has developed a molecule which combats one of the most common hospital bugs, the bacterium C. difficile. Clostridium difficile – to give it its full name – occurs in places where antibiotics are used and it is extremely difficult to control.

Until now, C. difficile infections have been fought by administering even more antibiotics. Ivarsson has already tested his molecule on mice with successful results and patented it. He has also been awarded a Pioneer Fellowship by ETH Zurich, a grant which the university offers to support young researchers in developing innovative products or services.

On 8 November, Mattias Ivarsson will have the opportunity to present his project once again to a high-calibre panel of judges from the science and business communities at the Falling Walls Lab Finale in Berlin. He will be competing against 99 other finalists from all over the world, with the three best ideas being awarded a cash prize and the chance to give their presentations again the next day in front of around 600 guests at the international Falling Walls Conference.

The Falling Walls Conference has been held by the Falling Walls Foundation every year since 2009, always on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The aim of the conference is to promote a global dialogue between science, business and society.

The Falling Walls Lab competition is open to Master’s students, doctoral students, postdocs, young professionals and entrepreneurs. Participants may be from any disciplinary background but they must be no older than 35. This year’s Falling Walls Lab in Switzerland has been organised by ETH Zurich in collaboration with Life Science Zurich.

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