NWO START-UP Award : Understanding asthma by studying glass

Prize: NWOSTART-UPScientific


Liesbeth Janssen, assistant professor at the TU/e Department of Applied Physics, will also receive an NWO START-UP Grant. She wants to understand glass better. When we think of glass we all think of the windows in our house, but a glass phase - non-crystalline or amorphous phase - occurs in all objects around us, even in living cells of the human body. Despite this abundance, glass is a scientific mystery. Janssen is especially curious about how the abruptness with which a transition from a liquid to a glass takes place: the fragility. Through her research she wants to develop a general theory of glass, for which she systematically describes the conversion of glass phase to liquid phase by means of physical laws. In 2015 she published a highly promising proof-of-concept on this.

Janssen’s theory should help with the development of new materials, but understanding medical diseases is also possible. For example, new epithelial cells of the lungs also enter a glass phase, a process that is undergoes a delay in asthma patients. Janssen hopes that her insights can help to better understand this condition, a study for which she is collaborating with the laboratory for cell biology in Harvard.
Degree of recognitionNational