Professor Chunying Chen FRSC
Winner: 2021 Environment, Sustainability and Energy Division open award: Environment Prize
National Center for Nanoscience and Technology of China
For pioneering contributions in exploration of the nano–bio interface, providing fundamental insights into the fate of nanomaterials in biota and the environment.
Celebrate Professor Chunying Chen
Nanoscale materials have unique physiochemical properties compared to bulk materials and are present in thousands of products we use in daily life.
Professor Chen’s research focuses on the fate of nanomaterials in biota and the environment and the interactions that happen at the nano-bio interface and molecular level. Her team has established a reliable and quantitative methodology for measuring protein corona formation and the absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion, toxicity (ADME/T) and translocation of nanomaterials in vivo by using isotope-labelling and synchrotron radiation-based techniques.
Her work has expanded our understanding of nanomaterial exposure scenarios and their human toxicological effects in vivo, as well as the discrepancy between in vitro and in vivo behaviour, providing fundamental insights for environmental health and the sustainable development of nanotechnology.Read winner biography
Professor Chunying Chen received her BSc in Chemistry (1991) and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Huazhong University of Science and Technology of China (1996). She worked as a postdoctoral research fellow at the CAS Key Laboratory of Nuclear Analytical Techniques, Institute of High Energy Physics of Chinese Academy of Sciences (1996–1998). She has been a professor at the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology of China since 2006. She was elected as a General Secretary of the Asian Society of Toxicology in 2018. She is also a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (2021) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (2016).
Professor Chen’s research focuses on the development and application of quantitative approaches for evaluation of nano-bio interaction and the fate of nanomaterials in biota and environment. She has had over 300 peer reviewed articles published in journals including Nature Nanotechnology, Nature Methods, Nature Communications, JACS and PNAS, with over 32,100 citations and an h-index of 94. She was recognised among the prestigious group of Highly Cited Researchers in the world in the field of Pharmacology and Toxicology (2014, 2017 and 2018, Thomson Reuters). She has published six books and has been granted over 30 patents.
For her contributions to science, Professor Chen has received numerous awards, including TWAS Chemistry Award (2020), the Second Prize of the National Natural Science Award (2018), Outstanding Female Awards of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2017), Chinese Young Female Scientists Award (2014), National Middle-aged and Young Experts with Outstanding Contributions (2014), the National Award for Innovation and Outstanding Service to the Standard authorised by the Standardization Administration of China (2011).
How did you first become interested in chemistry?
My parents were chemists. Part of my childhood was spent in the laboratory. I saw that a mixture of different substances could cause discoloration, luminescence, and/or heat generation. I was so interested and wanted to unlock the mystery.
Who or what has inspired you?
My parents were passionate about working with chemistry. They inspired me originally. And then I became inspired by my PhD and postdoc advisors, Huibi Xu and Zhifang Chai.
Can you tell us about a scientific development on the horizon that you are excited about?
The sustainable application of nanomaterials for biomedicine needs more deep understanding of the nano-bio interface. It needs more systematic analysis and provide standards and guidelines of the fate of nanomaterials in real scenarios.
Why is chemistry important?
Chemistry can make all substances we need. Chemistry is change. Change is always important for innovation.
How are the chemical sciences making the world a better place?
Chemistry is the science which is the closest to our daily lives. Currently, there are many problems in the world, including aging, energy shortage and pollution. The chemical sciences can help solve these problems, improve human health and protect the ecological environment for a sustainable and better world.
Why do you think teamwork is important in science?
Science solves complex problems that a single individual cannot approach due to a lack of necessary knowledge. Team members of different disciplines, skills and diverse perspectives benefits innovation.
What is your favourite element?
Selenium. It opened the door of chemistry for me because my PhD advisor initially introduced it to me: she has devoted her life to it.