Ubbo Emmius College charter

November 2018

In recognition of our role in promoting the city of Groningen through the organization of our 2017 ISPP conference, our group received the prestigious Ubbo Emmius College charter. Many thanks once again to Friederike, Stephanie and Mark for the organization of the symposium, and to Margot Spee / Ubbo Emmius for this honor.

Empowering nanomedicine with MRI: why, how, and what’s next?

November 2018

Friederike answers those questions in our new review on liposomal drug delivery where smart MRI contrast agents are used to follow both the distribution and activation of responsive carriers.

ISPP2018, Vic, Spain

1-2 November 2018

With a big group we visited the second International Symposium on Photopharmacology, celebrating a new meeting tradition that our group has started in 2017. Dusan and Wiktor delivered talks, Jana, Friederike, Laura, Valentina, Dusan, Pier and Mark showed posters, and Mark even won the poster prize! Many thanks to the organizers for carrying the torch of photopharmacology forward, we are very much excited for the next installments!

Dusan's picture featured in C&EN

October 2018

Dusan’s picture has been chosen for the C&EN column “Chemistry in Pictures” – see it here. Congratulations!

Nadja with Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship

October 2018

Just arrived and already making us proud: Nadja secured the Feodor Lynen Research Fellowship from the Humboldt Foundation to work with us on the photocontrol of biological processes. Congratulations!

IASOC 2018, Naples, Italy

22-25 September 2018

Wiktor gave an invited talk at the 2018 Ischia Advanced School of Organic Chemistry. Many thanks to the organizers for the invitation and compliments for preparing such an amazing conference!

7th EuCheMS Congress, Liverpool, UK

26-30 August 2018

Mark presented his work on photopharmacology during the 2018 EuCheMS conference in Liverpool. As a true FC Liverpool fan, he also visited the famous stadium at Anfield Road!

Do molecular motors operate in water?

August 2018

The short answer is: yes, they do. For a more detailed answer provided by Anouk (congratulations!), please see our recent paper.

TIBS cover

August 2018

Mark’s review on the use of photopharmacology as a research tool made it to the front cover of Trends in Biochemical Sciences. Congratulations!

Tapas celebration

26 July 2018

The Gang went out for tapas to celebrate the visit of Ewa (internship from London) and the joining of Lucien for post-doc. Also, Dusan might could has have had a birthday. Or not.

The Smurfactants

02 July 2018

Our team The Smurfactants took part in the traditional relay organized every year at Stratingh institute. The team consisted of (left-to-right): Lucas (Hefty Smurf), Pier (Brainy Smurf), Wiktor (Gargamel), Friederike (Smurfette) and Dusan (Papa Smurf). Needless to say, we won the Costume Competition, the only competition that matters. Thanks to Mark for lending us the cat!

19th Tetrahedron Symposium, Lake Garda, Italy

26-29 June 2018

Mark proudly represented our lab with a poster at the Tetrahedron Symposium in Italy.

Photopharmacology as a research tool

June 2018

Besides the promise they hold in medicine, photoswitchable bioactive molecules can offer exciting possibilities as research tools to selective affect the activity of a protein in a chosen space and time. We look deeper into those applications in our recent review.

Dangling Modifier!

June 2018

During the ASP 2018 conference a new progressive sludge metal band came to be: we are The Dangling Modifier! Left-to-right: Sherri McFarland (g), Ricky Lincoln (dr), Wiktor (bg), Fergus Poynton (kb), Edith "Phoebe" Glazer (voc). Watch this space for more info.

Michael got a PhD cum laude!

1 June 2018

After four years of great research and an amazing defence, Michael obtained his PhD with honours. Congratulations Dr Lerch! And many thanks to everyone who made this day special and worked on the movie for Michael. Special shout-out to Prof. Stefan Hecht for starring in the movie and to His Photographic Excellency Dusan Kolarski for providing the pictures for free.

TracerLab website (first draft) is online

June 2018

TracerLab is a synergistic initiative between the SzymanskiLab (Radiology, UMCG), Feringa group (University of Groningen) and Elsinga group (NGMB, UMCG), aimed at developing an applying new chemistry of medical imaging. The first draft of our website is now on-line!.

Solvent effects on DASA photoswitching

May 2018

We have recently elucidated the key features of the actinic steps of DASA photoswitching. In our new paper, Michael and his amazing network of collaborators (cheers to all involved!) asks if this mechanism is conserved across different solvents and if it is general despite the differences in switching kinetics. Read more here.

Our research with a highlight in Advanced Science News

May 2018

Our recent paper on photocontrolled glutamate transport inhibition has been highlighted! Congratulations to Mark.

2018 SRBR Meeting, Amelia Island, Florida

12-16 May 2018

Dusan, supported by the SRBR Merit Award, joined 2018 Society for Research on Biological Rhythms meeting on Amelia Island, Florida to talk about our work on light-activated compounds.

ASP 2018 Biennial Meeting, Tampa, Florida

11-15 May 2018

Wiktor gave a presentation at the Biennial Meeting of the American Society for Photobiology. Many thanks to Phoebe Glazer and Sherri McFarland for my first opportunity to visit North America, the meeting was amazing!

Photocontrol over glutamate transport

May 2018

Transport of anionic amino acids plays a crucial role in many physiological processes, including synaptic transmission. Based on a known inhibitor of glutamate transport, Mark and co. have designed compounds that enable photocontrol of this process. Thanks to the groups of Dirk Slotboom and Gerrit Poelarends for this exciting collaboration! Read more here.

ISPP2018: the II International Symposium on Photopharmacology

Upcoming: 1-2 November 2018, Vic, Spain

We are extremely happy and excited to see that our Symposium from 2017 will have an amazing follow-up in Vic, Barcelona this year! A big shout-out to the organizing committee, we will be joining you in considerable numbers. Read more and register here (Early Bird Registration closes 20th July).

The Sailing season 2018 is open!

May 2018

Members of the Szymanski Lab, with friends and colleagues, opened the sailing season for this year. Lets hope for many more days like this - wind and sun!

The King of The Netherlands visits Groningen

27 April 2018

Willem-Alexander, King of The Netherlands, has visited Groningen for His birthday. Together with Ben’s group we have celebrated this by presenting our Science to His Royal Majesty. Mickel was a great Master of Ceremony! You can see the complete footage (1:53:00 onwards) here.

Mickel on the University Podcast for the King's Day 2018

April 2018

For people who speak Dutch: Mickel took part in the first podcast from University of Groningen "In de Wetenschap". You can hear it here.

SFB/TRR186 - PhD-Student/Postdoc-Meeting 2018

18-20 April 2018, Berlin, Germany

Michael was an invited speaker at the meeting of the action "Molecular Switches in the Spatio-Temporal Control of Cellular Signal Transmission" in Berlin.

C&EN feature on photopharmacology

April 2018

Wiktor is among the researchers interviewed for a feature on Photopharmacology in the new issue of Chemistry & Engineering News. Thanks to Katharine Sanderson for a nice highlight of our work!

Farewell to Jacques and Albert

March 2018

The gang went out for some steaks (and portobello & falafel for the carnivorously impaired) to give a fitting farewell to our Master students. Thank you guys for an amazing year filled with hard work and good memories. All the best, Jacques! Bon voyage, Albert!

European Molecular Imaging Meeting 2018

20th - 23rd March 2018, San Sebastian, Spain

Friederike and Wiktor went to the beautiful Basque country for food/hiking/EMIM 2018. Friederike showed a poster and Wiktor gave a talk on red-light-activated antibiotics and chaired a poster session.

Michael's work on the cover of Chem. Soc. Rev.

March 2018

A beautiful graphic, designed and painted by Kaja on the basis of Dusan’s picture / Michael’s chemistry, has made it to the cover of Chemical Society Reviews.

Controlling DNA hybridisation with a molecular motor

March 2018

Standing up to the challenge of using molecular motors in biology, Anouk took those Nobel-Prize-winning molecules to the realm of oligoneculeotide structure photomodulation. Read more about it in our new paper.

PhD position open

March 2018

A new position is open for a PhD within the consortium of Dr Albert Guskov (crystallography) and the group of Dr Wiktor Szymanski (photopharmacology) with the additional co-supervision from Prof Dirk Slotboom (biophysics and biochemistry) and Prof Gerrit Poelarends (pharmaceutical biotechnology). Deadline March 31st. If intersted, see the description / applications here.

Review on the (photo)chemistry of DASA switch

February 2018

During his PhD studies, Michael acquired a lot of experience in the synthesis, photochemistry and applications of the exciting new photoswitch DASA (donor-acceptor Stenhouse adduct), introduced in 2014 by Read de Alaniz and co-workers. To tap into that knowledge, check out our new tutorial review.

Michael teaches the next generation of chemists

January 2018

As part of the bigger event series called "TecDays" by SATW, Michael visited his old highschool near Lucerne, Switzerland, where he talked about molecular machines and photoswitches. In three modules throughout the day, high-school students could learn about molecular machines and make and switch their own photoswitches in the lab. TecDays want to spread excitment about natural sciences and technology and support education in these disciplines at highschools throughout Switzerland.

Farewell to Kaja

January 2018

After great two years with us, Kaja went back to Poland for the last leg of her PhD. We gave her a proper and fitting farewell at the local steakhouse. Thank you for all the amazing work, good luck and see you soon!

Photouncaging of amines with green light

January 2018

Using non-toxic and deep-tissue-penetrating visible light to activate biological activity opens exciting possibilities. Since amine groups are very common in bioactive molecules, Kaja has established a synthetic method to introduce BODIPY-derived photoprotecting groups on them. Using green light (520-560 nm) we can now uncage amines in a quick process. Read more in our new paper.

Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry special issue on smart imaging probes

December 2017

A special issue of Bioorg. Med. Chem., with Wiktor as guest editor, is now open for paper submissions. In creating smart imaging probes, molecular design and synthetic chemistry play a central role. The valuable contributions to this Symposium-in-print will highlight the challenges and opportunities in this field and provide the overview of current directions.

NWO ECHO Grant for Wiktor and Prof. Dirk Slotboom (GBB)

December 2017

Together with our collaborator, Prof. Dirk J. Slotboom (Membrane Enzymology, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute) we have received an ECHO grant from the Dutch Science Organisation (NWO) to study the photocotrnolled transport through biological membranes.

Chains 2017

5th - 7th December 2017, The Netherlands

Our Lab visited the 2017 Dutch Chemistry Conference CHAINS. Friederike and Mickel gave talks in a session dedicated to photocontrol of biological processes. Jana, Friederike, Michael and Mark presented posters.

Our research with a highlight in Nature

November 2017

Our recent paper on using red/violet light to control the activity of trimethoprim-based photoswitchable antibiotic has been highlighted by Nature! Congratulations to Michael Wegener and Mickel for this amazing recognition.

Dusan with 2nd prize in EYCN Photochimica 2017!

November 2017

This amazing picture taken by Dusan in our lab was awarded with the second place in the 2017 Photochimica competition by EYCN, the young division of EuCheMS. The picture is entitled “Our Universe” and its caption runs: “Our chemistry laboratory is very often full of surprises. During the evaporation of the solvent, newly developed bioactive compound crystallized into a fascinating shape. Almost as a representation of the cosmos, this image shows a fragment of our ‘universe’ in which we create, live and play with science.” Congratulations Dusan!

Molecular Machines Nobel Prize Conference

19-22 November 2017

The SzymanskiLab was strongly represented at the special conference in honour of the 2016 Chemistry Nobel Prize awardees. Mickel gave a great talk and Dusan, Friederike, Jana, Kaja, Mark, Michael and Pier showed posters.

Reversible activation of antibiotics with red light

November 2017

Inspired by the amazing photochemical properties of tetra-ortho-substituted azobenzenes from Woolley and Hecht labs, Michael Wegener and Mickel utilised our recent synthetic methodology to develop trimethoprim-based photopharmacological antibiotics that can be operated using either green or red light. This permits deeper tissue penetration and ensures negligible toxicity of light. Read more about it here

Invited lecture at the Warsaw University of Technology

17 October 2017

Wiktor visited his Alma Mater to introduce the concepts behind photopharmacology, discuss collaborations and meet old friends. Many thanks to Prof. Zbigniew Brzozka and Dr. Ilona Grabowska-Jadach for hosting me! And cheers to science club Herbion that I co-started many, many years ago. What you guys do now makes me proud :)

Invited lecture at NanoLund

11-12 October 2017

Wiktor went for an inspiring visit to the beautiful city of Lund, to learn about light delivery on the nano-scale and discuss the emerging applications of light-controlled bioactive molecules. Many thanks to Prof. Heiner Linke for the kind invitation!

Feringa Academic Alumni Symposium

14-15 September 2017

Almost 40 members of the Feringa Family, who are holding academic positions around the World, met in Groningen to present their current work. It was amazing to meet old friends and see the enormous scope of topics that we all work on, knowing that the common denominator for all of us is one group that we all worked in at some point.

Buluitreiking for Ilse and Jana

14 September 2017

Ilse and Jana received their MSc diplomas during the buluitreiking ceremony. Congratulations!

6-Azopurines at last...

September 2017

Purines substituted in 6 position form an important class of bioactive compounds. While these structures seem like perfect candidates for azologisation in photopharmacological approach, they were elusive due to the low reactivity of the 6-amino group in purines. Now Dusan shows in our new paper how a serendipitous discovery lead to a general synthetic method that conveniently yields the title compounds in good yields. And yes, they also switch with green light!

Sailing on Paterswoldsemeer, Groningen

10 September 2017

Members of the Szymanski Lab, with friends and colleagues, went for great day out sailing on our local lake. With 4-5 Bft wind, we had lots of fun!

Working visit, Munich, Germany

6-7 September 2017

Friederike and Wiktor visited Munich to discuss science with our friends and collaborators. We had an amazing time, learned a lot and got inspiration for future work. Many thanks to dr. Oliver Thorn-Seshold (LMU) and dr. Andre Stiel & Prof. Vasilis Ntziachristos (IBMI, Helmholtz Centrum) for hosting us!

2017 ISN-ESN Meeting, Paris, France

20-24 August 2017

Wiktor talked about photopharma at the joint meeting of European and International Neurochemistry Societies. Many thanks to Prof. Pau Gorostiza and Prof. Dirk Trauner for organizing this great session and inviting our group to join the amazing conference in an impressive venue.

46th World Chemistry Congress (IUPAC), Sao Paulo, Brasil

9-14 July 2017

Wiktor introduced the concept of photophrmacology to the audience of the IUPAC conference.

Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting 2017, Germany

25th-30th June 2017

Mickel and Michael were selected to join the famous 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Michael presented a poster and received the 3rd price for his contribution. He also served as a panel member on the Ethics in Science closing discussion.

Who Needs Fundamental Science Anyway?

June 2017

Well... we all do. Michael makes an important point on the blog of Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings. Read all about it here.

Farewell to Ilse

May 2017

After busy eight months (and a bit), Ilse’s project came to an end. Thank you for all your hard work and good luck in the future! We will always remember you as the first MSc student of the Szymanski Group.

Münster Symposium on Cooperative Effects in Chemistry

12th May 2017

Dusan and Mickel attended the symposium in Münster. Dusan presented a poster about the new developments in azo-purine synthesis.

New Lab Members

Napoli Pizzeria, Groningen

With the recent addition of Laura (BSc student), Jacques and Albert (both MSc students), we can now fill a pretty long table at our local pizza place. Welcome to the group!

European Molecular Imaging Meeting, Cologne

5th-7th April 2017

Friederike proudly represented SzymanskiLab at the 12th European Molecular Imaging Meeting in Cologne with her poster.

International Symposium on Photopharmacology

UMCG, 16th February 2017

The SzymanskiLab has organised its first scientific symposium! With an amazing line-up of speakers and very high number of subscriptions (over 130) from all over the World, we hope to have provided the young field of photopharmacology a new tradition. Mark, Michael and Mickel presented their work in the plenary session and Dusan presented a poster. For more information and pictures, visit the conference site.

International Conference on Molecular Imaging Agents in Medicine

UMCG, 13th-15th February 2017

We helped to organize the International Conference on Molecular Imaging Agents in Medicine at the UMCG. With 200 participants, it was a big success. It featured talks from Professors Ben Feringa, Hidde Ploegh, Peter Caravan, Eva Toth and others. Friederike and Ilse presented their posters, and Friederike won the poster prize and got to present her research in the plenary session.

Feature on Photopharmacology

The Pharmaceutical Journal

A publication from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society on Photopharmacology is available here. It is an interesting perspective on the future of the field features interviews with people active in it, including Wiktor. Enjoy the read!

Chains 2016

6th - 8th December 2016, The Netherlands

SzymanskiLab was strongly represented at the 2016 Dutch Chemistry Conference CHAINS. Michael gave a talk about the photochemistry of DASAs. Mark pitched his poster. Kaja, Friederike, Mickel and Wiktor also showed posters.

International Symposium on Photochromism 2016

4th - 7th November 2016, Shanghai, China

Mickel and Michael proudly represented our lab at the ISOP 2016 in Shanghai. Mickel presented his work on photopharmacology and new methods to synthesize red-shifted azobenzenes. Michael received a poster prize for his presentation on the orthogonal photoswitching.

Our photopharmacology resource homepage is online now!

October 2016

Find information, background, tipps and tricks under If you are interested in the topic, don't hesistate to contact us for further information!


October 2016

Just in the news: Ben received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry! We are honored to be able to work with such esteemed scientist. What a day for all the group! See us cheering here

Red-shifted azobenzenes made easy

September 2016

Tetra-ortho-substituted azobenzenes, with red-shifted spectra, can be operated using visible and NIR light. They were introduced in seminal papers by the groups of Prof. Woolley (Toronto) and Prof. Hecht (Berlin). We believe that these compounds are the future of photopharmacology, since low energy photons penetrate deeper into the tissues and are scattered less. However, until now their synthesis was very challenging. In our new paper, Mickel shows an easy way to synthesize tetra-ortho-substituted azobenzenes with high yields!

Photoactivated Chemotherapy

September 2016

What other approaches, besides the use of molecular photoswitches, can be applied for light-regulated therapy of cancer? To find out more about the use of metal complexes and photocaged agents (and of course the photopharmacological approach!) look at the recent review from Friederike and Wiktor.

5th HRSMC Photochemistry School, Maastricht

27th - 31st August 2016

Dusan and Michael visited the Photochemistry School in Maastricht. Michael talked about DASA mechanism and presented his work on orthogonal photoswitching.

Sailing on Paterswoldsemeer, Groningen

July-August 2016

A contingent of Szymanski Lab, with friends, went for great days out sailing on our local lake.

XXVII European Colloquium on Heterocyclic Chemistry, Amsterdam

July 2016

Mickel gave a talk in Amsterdam at ECHC 2016 to introduce the concept of photpharmacology to the heterocycle community.

Orthogonal Photoswitching

July 2016

Is it possible to operate two molecular photoswitches independently in one solution, using light of different colors? Michael answers this question in our recent paper. You can read more about it here.

Emerging Targets for Photopharmacology

July 2016

How feasible is the delivery of light to different parts of the human body? Which organs / diseases can be addressed using photopharmacological approach? In which directions should the field develop to reach the clinics? Our group teamed up with translational surgeon Gooitzen M. van Dam (UMCG) to discuss these questions. You can read more about it here.

17th Tetrahedron Symposium, Sitges

28 June - 1st July 2016

Friederike presented a poster on her work aimed at preparation of light-activated MRI contrast agents.

Friederike won the Poster Prize

Stratingh Institute 2016 Workweek

Friederike won the Best Poster prize at for her work aimed at preparation of light-activated MRI contrast agents. Congratulations!

International Symposium on Photopharmacology

16th February 2017, Groningen, The Netherlands

Book the date in your calendar! On 16th of February 2017 we will hold the first International Symposium on Photopharmacology. More information can be found here .

Multi-Responsive Photochromes Conference, Nantes

25-28th April 2016

Michael presented his work on the photoisomerisation of DASAs, a new class of visible-light-responsive photochromes, at MRP conference. Furthermore, he presented that they can be employed for the first time in orthogonally-addressable systems comprising of multiple photochromes.

Loretnz Workshop on Optogenetics, Leiden

14-18th March 2016

Mickel and Wiktor visited the Lorentz workshop. During topical session, chaired by Wiktor, and also through lectures and poster presentations we introduced the optogenetics community to the concept of photopharmacology. We also discussed the synergies and complementarity of optogenetics and photopharmacology, which are two embodiments of the same idea: controlling biological systems with light.

European Molecular Imaging Meeting, Utrecht

8-10th March 2016

Friederike and Wiktor visited the 11th European Molecular Imaging Meeting in Utrecht. We introduced the principles of photopharmacology to the medical imaging specialists, recognising the importance of image-guided drug activation.

Claudia defended her thesis

5th February 2016

Claudia defended her thesis entitled "Peptides in Motion". Congratulations Dr. Poloni! For photos, visit our gallery section soon

Claudia thesis cover

Michael talks about Photopharmacology at the University of Zurich

December 2015

Michael delivered an inspiring talk for the lecture series "Reatch Pitch". You can read more over here.

Our research highlighted in ChemBioChem

July 2015

Our work on photoswitchable bacterial Quorum Sensing inducers received a very extensive highlight, being described as "remarkable as for the first time QS, the complex communication system of bacteria, can be controlled simply by irradiation with light"

VIDI grant for Wiktor

June 2015

Wiktor received a VIDI grant from the Dutch Science Organisation (NWO). With the grant support he will investigate new targets for photopharmacology and the the use of medical imaging techniques to evaluate photopharmacology. Congratulation also to dr. Anna Hirsch and dr. Edwin Otten from the Stratingh Institute, University of Groningen! More information on the NWO website and in the UKrant.

Mickel won the Strating Prize from the Backer foundation

June 2015

Mickel Hansen received the prestigious Strating Prize from the Backer foundation for his colloqium entitled "Wavelenght-selective cleavage of protecting groups". This great piece of work formed a basis of our recent publicaiton in Chem. Soc. Rev.. Read more here!

Mickel won the a second prize of the KNCV Golden Master Award 2014

March 2015

Royal Dutch Chemical Society (KNCV) presented the awards for the best MsC thesis of 2014. Mickel Hansen received the second award. Congratulations to Mickel and all the winners! Read more here.