First woman researcher in Slovenia receives ERC funds

Izola, 17 March - Anna Sandak, head of research team at the InnoRenew CoE research institute facility and a professor at the University of Primorska, has become the first woman in Slovenia to receive a European Research Centre (ERC) grant. Sandak and her team will use the EUR 2 million award to develop engineered living materials.

Sandak focusses her research on renewable materials and biomimetic solutions for new materials design. Her work promotes the knowledge-based use of bio-inspired materials in modern sustainable buildings, InnoRenew CoE said in a press release on Thursday.

As part of the awarded five-year project Sandak and her team will develop a protective biofilm made from engineered living materials. While most biofilm studies focus on preventing their formation, Sandak plans to explore the beneficial use of biofilms for protection.

The idea is to develop a bioactive protective coating system that protects biomaterial, concrete, plastic and metal surfaces, works in harmony with nature and benefits from the synergetic efforts of living fungal cells, bio-based ingredients and bioinspired concepts for materials design.

Sandak has a PhD in wood science and a master's in biology. She was born in Poland, and worked in Japan and Italy before moving to Slovenia in 2017. She currently leads the Wood Modification research group at InnoRenew CoE. She is also an associate professor at the Faculty of Mathematics, Natural Sciences and Information Technologies of the University of Primorska.

Sandak's project is one of the 313 projects worth a total of EUR 632 million that will be supported by ERC funds.