Maria Helena Godinho

Soft and biofunctional materials group
Associate Professor with aggregation
218 - Edif. II 10610
107-D - Edif. II 10618


Graduation in Chemical Engineering from Instituto Superior Técnico, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal, D.Sc, PhD and MSc in Materials Science from New University of Lisbon, Portugal. Nato/Invotan fellow at the Laboratoire de Physique de la Matière Condensée at Nice University in France.

Helena Godinho was always fascinated by the remarkable hierarchical organized structures existing in nature. Just after and during her Ph.D. thesis, she worked with Pierre Sixou (CNRS, France), Derek Gray (McGill, Canada), Eugene Terentjev (University of Cambridge, UK), and Peter Palffy-Muhoray (Kent State University, US). She learned about theory and experiments related to cellulose, liquid crystals (LC), cellulose LC systems, and LC elastomers. In 1996, she established an internationally recognized research line, which contributed remarkably to understanding how cellulose functional liquid crystalline networks assemble into complex shapes and how such anisotropic structures can be exploited for fabricating sustainable soft motors, electro-optical sensors, and photonic materials. More recently, the group started collaborations with Pawel Pieranski (Laboratoire de Physique des Solides Orsay, France), Slobodan Zumer (University of Ljubljana, Slovenia), and Claudio Zannoni (University of Bologna, Italy).

The enthusiasm and dynamism to pursue research in cellulose anisotropic functional systems arise from the unsolved fundamental questions about this natural source and the panoply of new applications it can offer.

The international community has been recognizing her work. In 2023, she was selected for the prestigious “The Lars Onsager Professorship 2023 and Medal” at Lars Onsager ́s Alma Mater, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway, for a period of 6 months during the academic year 2023-2024. This award is given every year since 1993 ( She was elected as Vice-President of the International Liquid Crystal Society (2016) and invited overseas lecturer by the British Liquid Crystal Society UK (2016). She was also invited to give plenary talks at International and European Liquid Crystal Conferences and write review articles on cellulose biomimetics (Advanced Materials), cellulose liquid crystalline systems (Advanced Functional Materials), mesomorphic materials (Science), and their applications. In the last 5 years: two edited books (French and English versions), four plenary talks, two tutorials, and several invited talks at International Conferences. More than 100 presentations related to mesomorphic biopolymers, cellulose and cellulose nanocrystals, anisotropic systems, and their networks. In 2022 the work published in Advanced Materials (author for correspondence) was highlighted as a hot topic, editor ́s choice, and in “Celebrating Excellence in the Advanced Materials Family: Women in Materials Science”. In 2019 she was awarded the “Frederiks medal” (field of Liquid Crystals Chemistry) by the Russian LC Society “Sodruzhestvo”.

Main publications

- “Cellulose and chitin twisted structures: from nature to applications” Rafaela R. da Rosa, Susete N. Fernandes, Michel Mitov and Maria Helena Godinho, Advanced Functional Materials (by invitation,,  published August 2023).

- "Topological metadefects: Tangles of dislocations” Pawel Pieranski, Mehdi Zeghal, Maria Helena Godinho, Patrick Judeinstein, Rémi Bouffet-Klein, Bastien Liagre, Nicodème Rouger, Physical Review Letters (Editors´Suggestion, Focus story:  Crystal Defects Interact to Form Intricate Structures by Philip Ball), 131(12), 128101, 2023.

- “Cellulose Nanocrystal Aqueous Colloidal Suspensions: Evidence of Density Inversion at the Isotropic- liquid Crystal Phase Transition” R.R. da Rosa, P.E.S. Silva, D.V. Saraiva, A. Kumar, A.P. Mendes de Sousa, P. Sebastião, S.N. Fernandes, M.H. Godinho, Advanced Materials, 2108227, 10.1002/adma.202108227, 2022 (Inside Cover, Editoŕs Choice and Celebrating Excellence in the Advanced Materials Family: Women in Materials Science and Hot Topic: Liquid Crystals, Advanced Optical Materials).

- “Travelling colourful patterns in self-organized cellulose-based liquid crystalline structures” P.E.S. Silva, R. Chagas, S.N. Fernandes, P. Pieranski, R.L.B. Selinger, M.H. Godinho, Communications Materials, 2, 1- 10, 2021.

- "When the smallest details count" M.H. Godinho, Science, 369 (6506), 918-919,  2020. Summary|Reprint|Full text

- “Liquid Crystals - New Perspectives” (bilingual (English and French)), Edited by P. Pieranski and M.H. Godinho, 2021, “Cristaux Liquides: Nouvelles Perspectives”, 2022, ISTE-Wiley (Recent Books).

- "Spotting plants’ microfilament morphologies and nanostructures" Ana P. Almeida, João Canejo, Urban Mur, Simon Čopar, Pedro L. Almeida, Slobodan Žumer, and Maria Helena Godinho, PNAS, 116 (27) 13188-13193, 2019.

- “Cellulose-based Biomimetics and Applications” Ana P. C. Almeida, João P. Canejo, Susete N. Fernandes, Coro Echeverria, Pedro L. Almeida and Maria H. Godinho*, Advanced Materials (Review), 30(19), 1703655, 2018 (back front cover).     ...

- “Mind the Microgap in Iridescent Cellulose Nanocrystal Films” S.N. Fernandes, P.L. Almeida, N. Monge, L.E. Aguirre, D. Reis, C.L.P. de Oliveira, A.M.F. Neto, P. Pieranski, M.H. Godinho*, Advanced Materials, 29(2), 1603560, 2016 (front cover).             ...

- “Helical twisting of electrospun liquid crystalline cellulose micro- and nanofibers” J.P. Canejo, J.P. Borges, M.H. Godinho*, P. Brogueira, P.I.C. Teixeira*, E.M. Terentjev, Advanced Materials, 20(24), 4821, 2008.                                    

- “Sensing surface morphology of biofibers by decorating spider silk and cellulosic filaments with nematic microdroplets” L.E. Aguirre, A. de Oliveira, D. Seč, S. Čopar, P.L. Almeida, M. Ravnik, M.H. Godinho, S. Žumer, PNAS, 113(5), 1174, 2016.

- “Shaping helical electrospun filaments: A Review” P.E.S. Silva, F. Vistulo de Abreu, M.H. Godinho*, Soft Matter, 13(38), 6661 (2017).   !divAbstract

- “Helical Microfilaments with Alternating Imprinted Intrinsic Curvatures” P.E.S. Silva, M.H. Godinho*, Macromolecular rapid communications, 38(5), 38(5), 1600700 , 2017 (back cover).                                               ...

- “Hierarchical wrinkling on elastomeric Janus spheres” A.C. Trindade, J.P. Canejo, P. Patricio, P. Brogueira, P.I. Teixeira, M.H. Godinho*, Journal of Materials Chemistry, 22(41), 22044, 2012.!divAbstract

- “Water-Based Cellulose Liquid Crystal System Investigated by Rheo-NMR” G. Yong, P.L. Almeida, G.M. Feio, J.L. Figueirinhas, M.H. Godinho*, Macromolecules, 46(11), 4296, 2013.

- “A cellulose liquid crystal motor: a steam engine of the second kind” Y. Geng, P.L. Almeida, S.N. Fernandes, C. Cheng, P. Palffy-Muhoray*, M.H. Godinho*, Scientific Reports, 3 Article Number:1028 DOI: 10.1038/srep01028, 2013. 

- “Liquid crystal necklaces: cholesteric drops threaded by thin cellulose fibres” Y. Geng, D. Sec, P.L. Almeida, O.D. Lavrentovich, S. Zumer, M.H. Godinho*, Soft Matter, 9(33), 7928, 2013 (cover) (Hot paper July 2013).!divAbstract

- “Rheo-NMR study of water-based cellulose liquid crystal system at high shear rates” C. Echeverria, P.L. Almeida, G. Feio, J.L. Figueirinhas, A.D. Rey, M.H. Godinho*, Polymer, 65, 18, doi:10.1016/j.polymer.2015.03.050, 2015.

- “Liquid crystalline cellulose derivative elastomer films under uniaxial strain” M.H. Godinho*, D. Filip, I. Costa, A.L. Carvalho, J.L. Figueirinhas, E.M. Terentjev, Cellulose, 16(2), 199, 2009.

- “Cellulose-Based Liquid Crystalline Photoresponsive Films with Tunable Surface Wettability” L.F.V. Pinto, S. Kundu, P. Brogueira, C. Cruz, S.N. Fernandes, A. Aluculesei, M.H. Godinho*, Langmuir, 27(10), 6330, 2011.

- “Wrinkling Labyrinth Patterns on Elastomeric Janus Particles” A.C. Trindade, J.P. Canejo, L.F.V. Pinto, P. Patricio, P. Brogueira, P.I.C. Teixeira, M.H. Godinho*, Macromolecules, 44(7), 2220, 2011.

- “How to mimic the shapes of plant tendrils on the nano and microscale: spirals and helices of electrospun liquid crystalline cellulose derivatives” M.H. Godinho*, J.P. Canejo, L.F.V. Pinto, J.P. Borges, P.I.C. Teixeira, Soft Matter, 5(14), 2772, 2009.!divAbstract