Lego, bikes, Olympiads, coffees, asados… what do they have in common?

Is it possible to play Lego at the scale of molecules? Yes! Imagine you can make molecules with a specific shape, and program them to form materials. This is one of César Rodriguez-Emmenegger goals. At his lab, they want to make synthetic materials that can interact and communicate with living cells and tissue to control their behaviour. Imagine that you can create a synthetic cell that imitates how macrophages hunt and kill bacteria, isn’t it amazing?

Since February 17th César Rodriguez-Emmenegger has become an IBECer and ICREA research professor! We are so glad to have him in our institute, but his journey here wasn’t plain sailing.

At secondary school, César couldn’t decide if he wanted to become a doctor or a scientist. One day he participated in a “Chemistry Olympiad” and at that moment, he got hooked with chemistry. Every weekend, he travelled all the way from the north of Uruguay to Montevideo, which is right at the other side, to perform experiments and training.

Thanks to that Olympiad, he went to university and studied chemical engineering. In fourth grade, he met a professor of thermodynamics –Aldo- that changed his life. He recruited César to work in his group at Universidad de la Republica to work on ceramics. Then, when he was about to go for a PhD in France his fate changed again. Aldo had been playing golf with the director of the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry in Prague and because of that encounter, a few months later and only six days after finishing his engineering degree, César found himself sitting on a plane on route to Prague for a 10-month internship… which lasted 9 years!

During those years in Prague, he fell in love two times: with polymer chemistry and nanoscience, and with his better half both in the lab and in life: Nina.

In Prague, he worked in the field of biosensors and started to develop brushes that could act as an invisibility cloak. Imagine if you were able to make the surface of a medical device invisible to bacteria, so that they could not colonize them… that would be fantastic, wouldn’t it?

After Prague, he also worked in Karlsruhe, Cambridge and UPenn, before establishing his group in DWI – Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials where he focused his research in biointerfaces and cell membrane mimics, which was the steppingstone of his work on synthetic cells. But now it was time to fly again…César wanted to build his team in a centre with more biological environment and with the perspective to develop materials for medicine, and we are so glad that he decided to land here at IBEC, to work in bioengineering for a better life and health!

But how has he been able to keep up with this journey? Well, we could say that he is a coffee addict. Since he was a child, he always skipped siesta and now he gets his power and energy by drinking no less than 8 cups of coffee per day!!!



Apart from his secret weapon (A.K.A coffee), resilience, perseverance, pushing things harder to achieve a goal… are values that César always keeps in mind. He loves cycling and he used to compete in this sport, so this are his core values both in research and sport. He still loves cycling; he will leave behind the car for his beloved bike. And as you can see, we think that he is trying to encourage her daughter to do the same, at a very young age 😉


After so many “IBEC Face of the Month” we have identified a common pattern: many scientists love cooking. And César could not be less. He loves cooking, and while doing so, it might appear that he is cooking in a lab. He likes to apply new strategies, skills and techniques to old recipes. Except for one thing: the ASADO. In that matter, he is as traditional as any Uruguayan is.

We are sure that in future newsletters, we will share with you all the great achievements that lie ahead. For now, one of his greatest achievements at IBEC is having built a team of young scientist who are passionate about doing meaningful science. IBEC was the place to be, and in Cesar’s own words “Perhaps, one drop at a time, we will be able to make an important contribution”.