UCL Faculty of Life Sciences


PhD graduate, Kristina Stapornwongkul, has been awarded the International Birnstiel Award 2021

1 October 2021

Kristina Stapornwongkul, PhD graduate from the Division of Biosciences, within the Faculty of Life Sciences, is one of six outstanding young scientists to have been awarded the International Birnstiel Award 2021 for Doctoral Studies in Molecular Life Sciences.

The award from the Max Birnstiel Foundation and the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology, will see awardees receive a certificate, trophy, and a prize of 2,000 Euro at a ceremony later this year.

The Award is open to any academic institution in the world; however, nominations are limited to one per institution or PhD programme. Because of the highly competitive nature of the award, the Birnstiel Award has become a significant accolade to celebrate future leaders in molecular life science research.

Competition was extremely strong, with over 100 institutions nominating their best PhD student of the previous year. One committee member stated:

“I have reviewed a lot of candidates in many different selection procedures, but I have never seen such a line-up before. This is really impressive.”

Kristina Stapornwornkul
Kristina Stapornwongkul, University College London/The Francis Crick Institute

Supervisor: Jean-Paul Vincent

Cells in developing organs have to become different cell types depending on their position in the tissue. This patterning process is crucial to ensure the development of functional organs. To know their position, cells sense the concentration of morphogens – secreted signalling molecules that have a graded distribution in the tissue. How such morphogen gradients form in the extracellular space has remained controversial. In her PhD work, Kristina Stapornwongkul generated an artificial morphogen system which was able to pattern the wing of the fruit fly Drosophila. This engineering approach allowed her to show that protein gradients can form by a diffusion-based mechanism and highlighted the importance of additional binding partners mimicking components of the extracellular matrix. Kristina did her undergraduate studies at the University of Konstanz, followed by a Masters at Heidelberg University. She finished her PhD earlier this year and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at EMBL Barcelona.

For more information visit: https://www.imp.ac.at/news/article/international-birnstiel-award-2021/