The Fundació Bosch Aymerich (FBA), in collaboration with the Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology (BIST) and the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC Barcelona), launched the FBA Fellows programme in 2020.
The programme was put in motion to give momentum to excellent research and teaching in the fields of health (in particular precision medicine) and energy and environmental sustainability. BIST has recruited three brilliant junior postdocs who will develop their scientific careers as well as acquire valuable non-research skills in an exciting multidisciplinary research environment.
UIC Barcelona for their part also recruited three FBA Fellows to work within their facilities. Learn more here.
The BIST – FBA Fellows
Dr. Ekaterina Khestanova, joining from the Department of Physics and Engineering at ITMO University (Saint Petersburg, Russia)
Dr. Khestanova will work at two BIST centres: ICFO and ICN2. Her project will focus on the studies of the optical properties of superconductors in the THz range. This exciting field of study has important applications in improving communications and saving energy. Until now, it has remained underexplored due to the scarcity of THz sources and detectors. However, the recent developments in THz technology will allow Dr. Khestanova to probe the coherent quantum state of superconductors with high spatio-temporal resolution and uncover new properties and phenomena that can lead to even more exciting applications in quantum materials and technology.
Dr. James Eills, joining from the Division of Chemistry at the University of Southampton (Southampton, UK)
Hyperpolarized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an emerging clinical tool for probing medical conditions, but relies on preclinical studies to assess the viability of hyperpolarized biomarkers. For his project, Dr. Eills will join the group of Dr. Irene Marco-Rius at IBEC, which specializes in hyperpolarized MRI and its combination with tissue engineering platforms. These platforms closely mimic in vivo conditions but allow for experiments to be performed at a greater rate than on animal models. Dr. Eills will accelerate preclinical methods development by implementing parahydrogen-induced polarization as a rapid and inexpensive method to produce hyperpolarized biomolecules, and apply this to image bioengineered tissue models. This technology will be used for studying diseases such as cancer, and for testing new drugs.
Dr. Marion Salzer, joining from a post-doctoral position at the Centre for Genomic Regulation (Barcelona, Spain)
Women are born with a definite number of oocytes, which remain within the ovary in a so-called dormant, low-metabolic state until they are activated to mature and subsequently ovulate in the reproductive adult. Oocyte quality, thus female fertility, rapidly declines with age. However, we do not know whether aging affects oocytes during maturation or rather during dormancy. Likewise, it is unclear to what extent oocyte aging is influenced by the systemic environment, and could thus be prevented by young systemic factors. Using single-oocyte transcriptomics combined with ovary transplantation experiments between young and old mice, Dr. Salzer, who will develop her work at CRG, will investigate if and how dormant oocytes age on the molecular and functional level. She believes that her research will be of great importance for the development of new therapeutic strategies that delay or even prevent oocyte decline with age.
Attractive multidisciplinary environment
BIST is a multidisciplinary research institution that brings together seven Catalan research centres of excellence: Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC), Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO), Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia (ICIQ), Catalan Institute of Nanosciences and Nanotechnology (ICN2), Institute for High Energy Physics (IFAE), and Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona).
BIST-FBA Fellows have full access to the facilities, seminars, and training programmes of the BIST centres. Networking activities shall facilitate inter-centre and inter-disciplinary exchanges and collaboration. Among other topics, Fellows may receive training in leadership, entrepreneurial skills, and technology transfer such as industrial and intellectual property, industrial collaborations, spin-off development, and other related subjects. BIST also offers a “Science to Business” course to raise awareness of business opportunities and to accelerate the transfer to market of technologies developed at the BIST centres.