Polish women in science

On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we look at female Polish scientists who follow in the steps of Maria Skłodowska-Curie and achieve great things in their respective fields of scientific research.


36-year-old physicist, and now also businesswoman, Olga Malinkiewicz has developed a novel solution for producing ultra-thin solar cells based on perovskites printed on flexible surfaces with the electronic inkjet method. Solar cells obtained using Malinkiewicz’s method are produced at lower temperatures which sharply reduces costs. Flexible, light, efficient and inexpensive, perovskite solar cells can be easily fixed to most surfaces to produce power. Like a sticker that you can fix onto your clothing. For her invention, Malinkiewicz was awarded the 2014 Photonics21 Student Innovation Award by the European Commission.


Do you know what kinorhynchs are? They are tiny marine invertebrates that live in mud or sand deep down in the sea. The diversity of this group of organisms – also known as mud dragons – is largely unexplored and the research conducted by Katarzyna Grzelak, Polish marine biologist, in Spitsbergen and its surroundings significantly filled the gap. Grzelak discovered and described eight new species of kinorhynchs giving three of them names that refer to the dragons known from George R. R. Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” saga and their human mother: Echinoderes drogoni, E. rhaegali and E. daenerysae.


Even though experiments on Pavlovian conditioning usually involve dogs, behavioural ecologist Joanna Bagniewska uses similar procedures in her research on the behaviour of… bees. She developed a method of training bees, whose sense of smell is exceptionally strong and sensitive, to detect certain smells in return for a reward in the form of sugar. “A bee needs only six seconds to learn a particular odour and be able to recognize it”, says Bagniewska, and the odour could be anything from pollen to… explosives. How is this useful? If taught to detect the smell of cocaine or heroin, for instance, bees could help customs officers at airports detect drugs.


Katarzyna Sawicka came up with a needleless alternative to vaccine shots which she patented under the name ImmunoMatrix. ImmunoMatrix is a vaccination patch that uses nanofibers to hold and deliver a vaccine through the skin. Sawicka’s patches are extremely user-friendly: you can keep them at room temperature and apply them yourself at home. Also, they are more efficient than traditional intramuscular injections because the vaccine is delivered directly into the dermal-epidermal junction where most immunoresposive cells are located. No trained medical personnel, no biohazardous waste, no needles and no pain - perfect!