26 April, 2024

Interview AT
From Lab to Life: Dr. Eva Ehmoser’s Biomaterials Adventure
Read the inspiring story of Dr Eva Ehmoser, a scientist and innovator from Austria.

This is the story of Dr. Eva Ehmoser, a biologist specialised in biomaterials from a molecular (nano) perspective. She has had a diverse career journey and has worked in various prestigious institutions worldwide. Dr. Eva Ehmoser’s work at the Institute of Synthetic Bioarchitectures focuses on investigating the applicability of natural materials, assessing the risks of nanomaterials, and engineering molecular toolkits for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. In this interview, Dr. Eva Ehmoser explains her passion for finding solutions to complex challenges and shows her desire to channel her ideas into tangible innovations, as well as explaining the challenges she has faced as a female scientist and innovator.

  • Can you tell us about yourself and your background?

I am a biologist by training and became a specialist in the field of biomaterials from a molecular (nano) perspective. My career has been a long and winding road: I moved from Hannover University via Mainz Max Planck for Polymer Chemistry towards Munich, MPI für Biochemistry, then Tokyo, Japan at the RIKEN institute, Singapore with IMRE@ASTAR and finally, I came to Vienna to receive a call from BOKU University for NanoBiotechnology. I founded the Institute of synthetic Bioarchitectures (SyBIO), where we investigate natural materials for their applicability, perform risk assessments for nanomaterials and perform bioengineering for molecular toolkits for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes.

  • What motivated you to become an innovator?

I love solutions! So many times, in my life I have been faced with questions to which I had the answer thanks to my background. In recent years, I regained the strength to write my ideas down, in the format of patents. Actually, I have always been an innovator, but I did not know where to apply my innovations. There came a time in life where I no longer cared about what might be expected from me as a university professor, e.g. doing administration work, teaching and grant writing. I just started to do what I was really good at: coming up with ideas. And just at the right time in life I came upon BOKU, which really is a very applied university. In recent years, it has become a very nice environment for me, my research, and my inventions!

  • How does intellectual property (IP) fit into your objectives and goals?

Perfect! I am such a fan of the Humboldt Principle! And here we go: intellectual property (IP) development is a complex process, and it fits in perfectly well with the idea of research-driven education. Think about the IP databases as a huge educational resource! It is accessible to everybody with internet access or food, to walk by the libraries of the patent offices. I am sure that IP is a great source of knowledge and inspiration, and its importance is quite underestimated still.

  • Which IP rights do you have? Ηow did you find out what IP is and what you needed to do to protect your business(es)/brand?

My IP rights have to do with polymersome for vaccine development, and two are related to membrane protein synthesis and insertion. I think that, in total, there are six patents under my (former) name Eva Sinner. And now I have two applications : a ‘novel insect repellent composition’, which I am trying to turn into a business for myself, and a dental implant (material)-related patent, which BOKU is still responsible for.

  • As a female scientist and innovator, have you faced any unique challenges?

Well, I think I had to fight more to achieve recognition I ultimately got quite a bit more recognition than many of my male colleagues. It took me many years to develop an independent status without being ‘squeezable’ in terms of resources. There is a natural mind-set of male colleagues, and even friends, to neglect the quality and originality of the scientific output. Especially when you meet dominant colleagues who outnumber you in relevant decisions. Also, I learned that most (even not related to gender) behaviours are unintentional, but they do work negatively on your mindset and creativity and, of course, they change your environment in an undesirable manner. After years of constant struggle, I learned different ways to respond. It is friendship and professional coaching which saved my health and my ability to survive really difficult times. And still, as a woman (as Full Professor), even though I am immersed in a male environment, I would categorise my situation as being quite safe and comfortable.

To guide them from resignation to hope and to make them aware of their abilities. Also, we need to make sure they enjoy it! It is so important not to act from a ‘corner of pity’, but to instead embrace the chance to apply a sometimes-different mindset to problems. To believe in one’s own strengths and competences is such a great and powerful feeling. We should not become something of a ‘second-best man’ but should instead enjoy the differences and the diversity of human beings and apply a humanistic view of us and our esteemed colleagues. In the end, it is about science and, in essence, finding solutions and answers! I hope that soon we will not need female-supporting laws and quotas. I so much hope that, after decades of struggle, we will only need ‘normality’ and ‘naturalness’ to respectfully work and live together as humans.

To develop skills and competences is key. Starting a career and succeeding and then having to emulate competence is the worst thing that can happen. ‘There is not real life in the wrong!’ is a statement – I guess it came from Janis Joplin. And this statement is so true! I wish for everybody to be real and honest with their own abilities and be proud of them. Then, if you are aware of and believe in your own ability, you can be a friend, offering support and receiving support in over time, and you will be able to keep life-long friendships alive. If you aim to ‘play big’, having sound foundations is key, and this means focusing on and absorbing knowledge as best you can.