Meet The Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020 Winners

Meet The Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020 Winners
4 years ago

Meet The Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020 Winners

We’re delighted to announce the winners of our Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020!

The Lab Heroes Awards™ were launched back in 2017 with the goal of recognising the unsung champions of the life sciences industry; the life scientists who make a big difference in their labs every day.

This year, our fourth year of running the awards, we were blown away to receive over 400 nominations for 71 superstar scientists – the most nominations we’ve ever had! The nominations were judged by a panel of distinguished and award winning scientists, including Brain Prize Winner Professor Graham Collingridge, and Professor Elek Molnár.

As it has been for the last three years, choosing a winner was incredibly difficult – because every single scientist that was nominated is absolutely a Lab Hero.

Whether they were celebrated for dedication to their research, support for their colleagues, being the person who looks after everyone in their team – the reasons you nominated your colleagues made us feel both inspired and humbled. We are incredibly proud – and extremely lucky – to be part of such a supportive, appreciative community.

And so, it’s time to meet our 2020 winners...

Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020 Winner:

Katarina Ilić, Laboratory for Neurochemistry & Molecular Neurobiology, Croatian Institute for Brain Research, University of Zagreb, Croatia

Receiving an incredible 93 nominations from current and former colleagues, Katarina Ilić was acknowledged for her determination, passion for science, teaching skills, work ethic, knowledge, professionalism, resourcefulness, dedication, willingness to help and more.

Svjetlana Kalanj Bognar, who works with Katarina at the University of Zagreb, Croatia said:

"The moment I heard about the Lab Hero award, I thought of Katarina and how perfectly this title suits her. I first met Katarina when she was a medical student, being one of those bright and motivated young people in a constant search for knowledge. As a student she already showed a great passion for neuroscience research which led her to a decision to pursue her career as a scientist. I am grateful for having a chance to mentor Katarina’s PhD thesis, it was a beautiful journey of learning from each other. I am grateful even more that Katarina is still in my lab, as she is an invaluable member of a team, solving all kinds of lab issues, related either to technical and practical tips or project administration. What fascinates me the most is her quick, creative and curious mind, 24/7 ready for discussions and figuring out science puzzles. In addition, she is a lovely young lady, radiating with positive vibes and goodness of her heart. Katarina is certainly one of the people making a huge impact in her acquaintances’ lives. In fact, I could not imagine my own life and career without Katarina being an important part of it. I believe that Katarina will always remain a true Lab Hero for all of us, her friends and colleagues!"

When we congratulated Katarina on her win, here’s what she said:

Thank you so much! I am very happy about this win, but just reading all the wonderful things my students and mentors wrote about my work has been extremely rewarding. My approach towards students and colleagues is something I have learned from my mentors as they helped me during my early work as a student and shaped me into a person and scientist I am today. I am very grateful to all who have taken the time to write about their experiences in the lab. I think kindness, selflessness and helping each other is a way for all of us to improve in our scientific career, but also in life. Katarina Ilić

Katarina will receive $2000 Hello Bio vouchers, plus a $1000 science career development grant. Congratulations!

Read all of Katarina's nominations here

Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020 Runner-Up:

Dr. Abiola Isawumi, West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens, University of Ghana, Ghana

Dr. Abiola Isawumi received 16 nominations from his colleagues, who told us about his passionate commitment to teaching and his generosity when sharing his knowledge with others. They describe him as “the go-to guy” who brings stability to the lab with his calm nature and motivational words.

Elizabeth Laryea, who works with Abiola told us:

"There's so much to write about Dr Isawumi and he's considered a hero, inside and out of the lab. I had the privilege of working with him during my postgrad studies. He went outside his comfort zone to ensure my successful completion of the program. He’s unusual in his approach to things, and has an aura of calmness around him. He's stable, he handles challenges well and has a way of stabilizing you even when you're falling apart. In his heart is a golden love for people and he carries a wellness mentality in the midst of difficulties.

Another colleague, Molly Abban, said:

"Dr. Abiola wears many hats and that makes all the difference. Each person experiences an encounter with him that speaks volumes, not only to their research but to their personal life too. He cares deeply about his work and that of all members in the lab with the aim of ‘lab members winning together’. The lab functions effectively with him around because he is always ready to offer a helping hand, no matter the project/challenge. He has a way of finding the good in the bad, especially concerning research, which makes him the science handyman."

When we told Abiola he was one of our runners up, he said:

I was shocked to receive this perfect news, and equally amazed to be one of the three 2020 Lab Heroes awardees. I couldn’t believe I stood a chance among the notable lab heroes nominated. However, it is awesomely fulfilling to have received great nominations from current and former colleagues that I have shared my expertise with over the years and even more pleasing to know that normal lab interactions have culminated into relevant impacts worthy of consideration. I am touched by the acts of kindness demonstrated by all who nominated me. This award is an opportunity to do more going forward. Abiola Isawumi

Abiola will receive $500 Hello Bio vouchers, plus a $500 science career development grant. Congratulations!

Read all of Abiola's nominations here

Lab Heroes Awards™ Runner-Up:

Dr. Ziba Jaberansari, Pelling Lab for Augmented Biology, University of Ottawa, Canada

Dr Ziba Jaberansari was nominated by her PI, Dr Andrew Pelling, who told us just how much Ziba has meant to him and his lab this year. He described her dedication to the team, and how she went above and beyond to keep the lab operating during this year’s pandemic.

Dr Pelling said:

During the 2020 pandemic, Ziba’s commitment to the lab and our research program shone brightly. Even though the labs were closed, critical cell lines and experiments had to continue otherwise we would have lost many months of work. Ziba continued to go in almost every day to keep some of the most critical research projects going. During this time, she coordinated experiments with students who had to work from home and because of these efforts we were still able to submit a new paper for peer review - during the shutdown!


During these extremely difficult times, Ziba has been a remarkable partner in managing the lab as well as caring for anxious students and postdoctoral fellows. Beyond long lists of publications, accolades and awards, what we too often ignore are the crucial people who are the foundation of a successful research program. My lab would not function if the people doing the benchwork didn’t have someone like Ziba who offers steadfast encouragement, advice and friendship.

When we told Ziba she was one of our runners up, she said:

I feel appreciated by this recognition for my passion and the efforts I have made. I did my best to ease our PhD students's life and supported our post docs in the lab. This position has been a unique opportunity to apply my skills and exercise my curiosity on new projects. I am privileged to work with our awesome PI (Dr. Andrew Pelling) because he is a most supportive person in my career, and I learn much from him. I must thank him and the very helpful colleagues who helped me sustain the ongoing state-of-art projects that were in progress throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Ziba Jaberansari

Ziba will receive $500 Hello Bio vouchers, plus a $500 science career development grant. Congratulations!

Read Ziba's nomination here


Additional Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020 Commendations

Like last year, the standard of entry was so high that our judges – the Hello Bio Scientific Advisory Board – have awarded commendations to:


Judges' remarks

Two of our judges paid these tributes to everyone who took part in this year's awards:

It is inspiring to read all these nominations, which clearly indicates how important teamwork is in research. Each of the nominees made significant contributions, often in the face of adversity. They are all excellent role models for others and therefore it was extremely difficult to pick a winner. I was particularly impressed by Katarina’s nominations, which clearly highlighted her commitment to her work and the willingness to share her knowledge with others. Recognising her contributions with the “Lab Hero” title is richly deserved. Professor Elek Molnár

This was an incredibly difficult task, to select amongst such a large number of deserving cases. It is so heartening to see the fantastic support that these Lab Heroes nominees are giving their scientific colleagues. Professor Graham Collingridge

Dr Sam Roome, our Director of Marketing who organised this year's awards said:

This year especially has been so challenging for many of us, and it has been heart-warming to read the inspiring nominations this year. A real theme has been the willingness to help lab colleagues and support them when times are tough. As always, congratulations to all those who were nominated this year- each and every one is a true lab hero. We hope that seeing nominations from your colleagues made you smile, and showed you how valued and appreciated you are by your lab mates. And of course, a massive thank you to everyone who took the trouble and the time to nominate their colleagues – you are lab heroes too!


Stay tuned for interviews with our winner and runners-up, coming to the blog soon!

View all our wonderful nominations for the Lab Heroes Awards™ 2020 here


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