Biosketch & some key achievements

Biosketch. Prof. dr. Karolien De Wael obtained her Ph.D in Chemistry at UGent in 2005 as national science foundation (FWO) fellow on the topic “El ectrochemical study of a gold electrode modified by the immobilization of transition metal ion phthalocyanines and porphyrins for catalytic applications”. K. De Wael started as tenure track research professor (analytical chemistry) at UAntwerp in 2011 and appointed as full professor in 2008. Currently, she is spokesperson of the AXES Research Group, performing fundamental, methodological and application-oriented research involving a wide range of analytical techniques. From 2014 until 2019, she was member of the Young Academy (Belgium). From 2017, she is member of the Industrial Research Fund (IOF) at UAntwerp. She publishes in international peer-reviewed journals (including Nature Communications, Biosensors and Bioelectronics and Angewandte Chemie), with 6 patent applications. Since 2020, she is board member of the Bio-Electrochemical Society. Link to publication list.

Key achievements:

1) Coordination of the EU RIA BorderSens project. Currently I coordinate an EU consortium representing 16 partners from 8 EU member states including 4 universities, 2 companies and 10 Border Authorities, police forces and national forensic institutes. We aim at developing key enabling technologies to be used at the borders by custom control authorities and police forces to quickly and accurately detect illicit drugs and precursors entering the EU countries. ​Check the intro video!

2) International context of the AXES research group. With three awarded Marie Curie postdoc fellowships and the coordination of two EU projects, my work is internationally recognized. The diverse range of research topics reflects my interest in interdisciplinary research. ​

3) Valorization activities. From 2016, my team developed an innovative, electrochemically based sensor platform for drug screening. The technology is now adapted and translated into one that can be applied on site. With the start of a VLAIO innovation mandate (Devin Daems) under my academic supervision, we are currently in the phase of entering the market. ​

4) Nature Communications papers in the field of bio-electrochemistry and main organizer of the SMOBE meetings in Antwerp. In the past three years, three Nature Communications were published in which bio(inspired) electrochemical approaches are described. I’m main organizer of the international SMOBE meetings (Summer Meeting On Bio(mimetic) Electrochemistry) in Antwerp. ​

5) Responsible research and innovation as important driver in my research activities. Today the demand for ultra-sensitive and selective (on-site/in process) detection systems resounds from the health, food and environmental sector. If we sum up the criteria our sensors must meet today, following literature, our sensors must be a) robust, b) applicable on-site, c) provide a very fast, d) sensitive and e) selective read-out. Electrochemistry and bio-electrochemistry are the techniques to actually fulfill all those criteria. However, the question is whether it is needed to fulfill all those criteria. The answer is NO. We need to listen to society and industry in order to identify which criteria must be fulfilled and which are the nice ones to have. A strategic vision of K. De Wael aims at a portfolio of sensor technologies (fulfilling relevant criteria) that can be applied in different markets/sectors embracing the idea of responsible research and innovation.