A Focus on our PhD Students – Mayara Carla Uvida (winner of the Inaugural Renata Reisfeld Fellowship for Women in Sol-Gel Science and Technology

Since high school, my interest in natural sciences, especially chemistry, motivated me to pursue a technical course in Chemistry in 2010 to improve my knowledge in this area. During this period, I received good recommendations and decided to study Chemistry at the São Paulo State University – UNESP, at the Institute of Chemistry in Araraquara, Brazil. As an undergraduate student, my first contact with scientific research came about during my scientific initiation in 2015, where I developed a project involving the preparation and characterization of polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA)-silica and epoxy-silica hybrids applied as protective coatings of metallic surfaces. Under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Peter Hammer of the Physical Chemistry of Materials Group (GFQM), for 3 years I had the opportunity to acquire knowledge in the fields of synthesis and characterization of multifunctional Sol-Gel materials with an emphasis on the development of organic-inorganic nanocomposites.

Determined to continue my postgraduate studies, I started my master thesis in 2018, in the same research group. In summary, in my master thesis, defended in 2020, I studied the applicability of organic-inorganic coatings for the corrosion protection of reinforcing steel in civil construction.

While developing the projects, I realized that the finetuning of the formulation and the processing parameters is essential to control the structure and thus to develop coatings with high barrier properties. During this period, I had also the opportunity to explore the multifunctionality of hybrid nanocomposites through collaboration with members of the research group and learned about their potential application in different fields such as for the development of biomaterials. The interest in biomaterials and the promising results of the group’s research motivated me to develop my doctoral project in this area.

Considering the experience of the research group and my supervisor in the development of functional organic -inorganic composites and hybrid materials using the sol-gel route and film deposition and characterization methods, I started my doctorate in April 2020. My Ph.D. project aims to develop PMMA-silica coatings with anticorrosive, bioactive, and bactericidal properties, using as a strategy the incorporation of additives based on calcium phosphates and metallic nanoparticles to obtain a bioactive material with structural and morphological characteristics suitable for application in metallic implants. The motivation for this project comes from the need to develop multifunctional strategies that promote effective anticorrosive protection, osseointegration, and mitigation of bacteria proliferation, considered as important prerequisites to ensure the long-term functionality of medical implants. I am currently in the second year of my Ph.D. thesis, in the phase of optimizing the chemical composition of the coatings using surface and electrochemical characterization techniques. Future steps include studies of the bioactive properties of the coatings using a variety of in vitro methods.

In addition to my academic and professional experiences, I also had good personal experiences, as I was able to exchange ideas with many members of the community who are enthusiastic about the scientific field, which contributed to my motivation to continue as a researcher. Looking at the path I have taken so far, I’m delighted to have been awarded the inaugural Renata Reisfeld Fellowship by the International Sol-Gel Society, which celebrates the life and career of a pioneer female scientist in the sol-gel field. This makes me believe I am on the right path, and I feel very honored to receive this personal and professional recognition, it certainly is a precious contribution to my academic career. I believe that initiatives like these that value the research performed by women are essential, especially in Brazil and in many other countries, where the percentage of women participating in science is low. Finally, I hope that other initiatives will be promoted to recognize and encourage women to contribute to the academic area and continue their research work.