An article from Norwegian SciTech News at NTNU

Nobel Laureate May-Britt Moser after receiving her diploma from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf during the Nobel Prize ceremony at the Concert Hall in Stockholm 10 December 2014. (Photo: Henrik Montgomery/NTB scanpix)
Nobel Laureate May-Britt Moser after receiving her diploma from Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf during the Nobel Prize ceremony at the Concert Hall in Stockholm 10 December 2014. (Photo: Henrik Montgomery/NTB scanpix)

Gala dress with grid cell glitter

2014 NOBEL PRIZE: When May-Britt Moser accepted the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with her co-laureates Edvard Moser and John O’Keefe yesterday, she was wearing a custom-made gala dress created by a designer who until a year ago was a tunnel engineer.

Gemini, NTNU Trondheim - Norwegian University of Science and Technology

NTNU is the second largest of the eight universities in Norway, and has the main national responsibility for higher education in engineering and technology.

“Well, what do you think?” asks NTNU Nobel Laureate May-Britt Moser and twirls around in a deep blue, floor-length dress made of silk, cotton and viscose.

It’s Friday afternoon, and less than two weeks from the Nobel Prize awards, and we are in a fitness room in the basement at NTNU’s Faculty of Medicine. Moser swishes and turns in front of a bunch of journalists and press photographers against a backdrop of training equipment, empty water bottles and huge speakers. At the end of the fitness room, dress designer Matthew Hubble pinches his arm and nearly cannot believe his eyes.

“I think the dress is nice. The pearl pattern shows glittering grid cells and geometric hexagons. The dress illustrates my research,” Moser says.

The gift of a dress

A year ago Hubble, who is from the UK, worked as tunnel engineer in London. Now he has designed the gala dress Moser was wearing when she was given the Nobel Prize by the Swedish king. His dream has become a reality.

Matthew Hubble, a tunnel engineer turned dress designer, used patterns from the Mosers' research on grid cells to design Nobel Laureate May-Britt Moser's gala dress. (Photo: Geir Mogen/NTNU)
Matthew Hubble, a tunnel engineer turned dress designer, used patterns from the Mosers' research on grid cells to design Nobel Laureate May-Britt Moser's gala dress. (Photo: Geir Mogen/NTNU)

“One of my dreams is to see a Nobel laureate like you being treated in the same way as an actor who wins an Oscar, with a beautiful designer dress that you can wear while walking the red carpet. It will be a great honour for me if you will take a dress from me to wear at the Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony,” Hubble wrote to Moser when it was first announced that she had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

More than one hundred hours

At first Moser archived the email and thought no more about it. But Hubble did not give up and produced what amounted to a “draft” dress.

“I had already bought a dress, but then I showed the draft to Edvard. He thought that I should use Matthew’s dress. I think it’s fun that Hubble is an engineer, and that there is science behind his design,” May-Britt Moser said.

Hubble has spent more than a hundred hours on the project. Dresses and samples have been sent by post from London to Trondheim and back again, before the last and final version.

Inspired by science

“A good designer has a lot in common with a good researcher. Both hunt for excellence and perfection. And you have to really focus on the details, and you don’t really know what the final result will be before you have it,” says Moser.

Hubble finds the inspiration for all of his designs in science. His goal is to use his clothing to promote science and engineering in the hope that he can inspire young people to choose a career in science.

“Engineers and scientists are the most creative people there are. The hope is that my clothes can help more young people become aware of all the opportunities these subjects offer,” says Hubble.

At the edge of your comfort zone

Hubble uses patterns on his clothing that are based on DNA structures, molecular structures and equations used for tunnel construction, among others.

“How do you feel seeing May-Britt Moser in a dress you’ve created?” Hubble is asked.

“I can hardly believe it, the whole experience has been so surreal and makes me nervous! But it should always be remembered that life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. It’s really true,” he says.

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