Two new Career Track Fellows receive the prestigious "la Caixa" Foundation Junior Leader fellowship
The last call of "la Caixa" Foundation Junior Leader Programme in its Incoming modality brought very good news to CRAG. Two young researchers supported by CRAG, Nicolas Bologna and Julia Qüesta, were among the list of the 35 selected candidates to receive this highly-competitive fellowship.
In its Incoming modality, this programme from "la Caixa" Foundation is aimed at hiring excellent researchers, of any nationality, who wish to continue their research career at a centre in Spain or Portugal accredited with a governmental excellence award such as the “Severo Ochoa”. The fellows are offered a complementary training programme focusing in aspects such as innovation and leadership, as well as networking activities, making it a very attractive programme for young researchers who wish to establish themselves as future leaders.
Both Julia Qüesta and Nicolas Bologna are originally from Argentina. Bologna had recently joined CRAG, after his postdoctoral studies in Zurich (Switzerland) and Cambridge (UK), when he received "la Caixa" fellowship; Qüesta, who did her postdoctoral studies in the UK, has just joined CRAG this summer. As Junior Group Leaders, they will open new research lines at CRAG.
Nicolas Bologna leads the RNA Biology group, which has already started to build with a postdoctoral researcher and a technician. His objective is to study biological functions of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). Non-coding RNAs are RNA molecules that are not turned into proteins, yet they can perform essential functions in living organism. Up to date ncRNAs have been implicated in a wide range of essential biological processes including several human diseases as cancer and cardiovascular and neurological disorders. Nevertheless, because only a very tiny fraction of ncRNA molecules has been characterized, we have just discovered the tip of the iceberg regarding the overall functions of this non-coding genome.
“By studying Arabidopsis thaliana plants, a world-wide established research organism crucial on the RNA field advances, together with the support of my growing group, I am looking forward to discover novel and essential function of non-coding RNA pathways in order to contribute from CRAG to the international scientific community”, explains Bologna.
Julia Qüesta will lead the Epigenetics and Plant Development group. She is interested in understanding how changes in the genome that do not affect the underlying DNA sequence (epigenetic changes) facilitate plant development. It is known that epigenetic mechanisms regulate developmental transitions, such as the switch from vegetative to reproductive stage. Qüesta’s research aims to uncover the missing link between environmental sensing and epigenetic processes, which in plants, as sessile organisms, is key for their adaptation and survival.
“I am looking forward to start building my team at CRAG to answer very fundamental questions in biology such as how plants can “remember” previous exposures to environmental signals. The "la Caixa" Junior Leader fellowship presents an outstanding opportunity for me to initiate my career as an independent scientist at CRAG. For sure there are exciting times ahead”, Qüesta says.
The Postdoctoral Junior Leader fellowships programme is an initiative of ”la Caixa” Banking Foundation, a Spanish non-profit organization whose mission is to contribute towards the progress of people and society.