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At the interface between research and teaching: Anja Car receives the Teaching Excellence Award 2023 for “Service to Teaching”

Anja talks about her career path and how she became part of the SNI team.

On 25 May, the coordinator of the nanosciences program, Dr. Anja Car, was presented with the Teaching Excellence Award 2023 for “Service to Teaching” from the University of Basel. After being nominated based on positive feedback from nanoscience students, she was chosen as the prizewinner by deans of studies at the university.

Originally a chemist
Anja Car studied chemistry and chemical engineering in Maribor (Slovenia) from 1996 to 2003. She also completed her doctoral dissertation on membranes for carbon dioxide separation in Maribor and at the Institute of Polymer Research at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht. The aim of her PhD project was to develop polymer membranes for emission-free power plants – for which she received a prize from the Gerda Henkel Foundation.

Anja Car then received various grants in order to continue her research as a postdoc at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht. In an international collaboration with industry, she worked on the development of osmosis membranes that can derive energy from the desalination of salt water. As part of a research project at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, she later investigated polymer membranes for paraffin/olefin separation in the oil industry.

In July 2012, Anja Car joined the group led by Professors Cornelia Palivan and Wolfgang Meier as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow in order to study polymer vesicles as pH-regulatable carriers for a vaccine against cancer. Anja remained in part-time employment at the research group until 2022 and led various projects relating to polymers and artificial membranes.

New challenge as coordinator
In June 2017, having always had a keen interest in teaching throughout her career, Anja took up the position of nanoscience program coordinator at the University of Basel in addition to her research activities. “I wanted to be a teacher at first, but I then spent many years focusing on research. The program coordinator position was the perfect interface between the two roles I’m passionate about,” she says.

Over the years, Anja Car gradually reduced her scientific activities. When the last doctoral student she was supervising completed his dissertation in the Palivan/Meier team in late 2022, it marked the end of Anja’s career as an active scientist.

Continuing education
To continue her education and with a view to performing her organizational role more effectively, Anja had a new goal in mind for the interim period: completing an MBA. From 2020 to 2022, she spent her spare time studying for a Master’s in Innovation Management in the Social and Education Sector at DOBA Business School in Maribor (Slovenia), successfully completing the course in November 2022.

Looking at Anja’s background, all signs initially pointed to a career as a scientist. Instead, she took the opportunity to combine her passion for teaching and research, accepting the position of program coordinator six years ago – a decision she has never regretted.

 “It’s so much fun working in the highly motivated team at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute and supporting students as they navigate the fascinating nanosciences degree course. I’m passionate about our students and delighted to support them in all respects. Every young person who takes an interest in or enrolls on this challenging course is a source of great satisfaction.”

Now, Anja’s enthusiasm and commitment to the degree program and students has been rightly rewarded: After being nominated for the Teaching Excellence Award 2023 for “Service to Teaching,” she now received the prize.