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

Gala dress with grid cell glitter

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

Hjernens gridceller er sentrale i nobelprisvinnernes hjerneforskning, og May-Britt Mosers gallakjole er designet med inspirasjon fra disse cellene. Foto: Geir Mogen/NTNU

The brain’s grid cells are central to the research of Nobel Laureates May-Britt and Edvard Moser. May-Britt Moser’s gown, which she will wear when receiving the Nobel Prize, features a design that was inspired by the cells. Photo: Geir Mogen/NTNU

“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.

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

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.

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 will be wearing when she is given the Nobel Prize by the Swedish king. His dream has become a realit

“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.

Glitrende gridceller. Foto: Geir Mogen/NTNU

Glittering grid cells.
Photo: Geir Mogen/NTNU

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 that Moser is trying today.

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.

Kjolens dekor har tydelig link til Mosers forskning. Illustrasjonsfoto av hjernens gridceller: Geir Mogen/NTNU

The dress’s decorations have a clear link to the Mosers’ research Illustration of grid cells:
Geir Mogen/NTNU

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.