1. What are your personal perspectives as a researcher?
To be able to sustain a long term research plan integrated within a dynamic research group/department is one of the most important aspects in my personal view. Well-established structures/laboratories with implemented transfer of knowledge, this within communication and collaboration with a targeted but vast network, are some of the keys towards excellence in research. This is what we tried to do in the stress biology group in CESAM (Dpt. Biology). The ecotoxicogenomics lab, for which I am responsible, has currently a well-equipped lab and a team of ca. core 9 researchers (3 post-doc, 6 PhD), all started from scratch in 2006. This is possible in a context of continuous search for funding and active research involving a network of researchers from various complimentary areas (genomics, bioinformatics, ecotoxicology, chemistry, etc.). Presently, the FP7-SUN and FCT NM-OREO contains resources for both a 4 year PhD and 6 year Post-Doc grants, contributing also to the UA human resources flow. The networking will be further developed and support future projects and students exchange, all contributing to the future consolidation and leadership in this particular area of knowledge - ecotoxicogenomics. Last, the consolidation of this area at University of Aveiro is an aim, less than 10 labs exist in the world. A systems biology approach is considered one of the top achievements and covers a wide range of applications, and e.g. clearly envisaged by the EU 2020 horizon.
2. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges in your area of research?
One of the biggest challenges is to be able to communicate efficiently with the various areas of knowledge. Ecotoxicogenomics is highly interdisciplinary and the languages of each area offer a specificity that is often not easy to process, e.g. bioinformatics with genetics with ecotoxicology. Within nanotoxicology, which is also covered in the group, the involved disciplines include physics, materials science, chemists, toxicologists, image analysis experts, and besides this, various industry and regulators stakeholders. Here one of the challenges lays in providing the right scientific knowledge to industry, promoting safe(r)-by-design technologies and materials, helping a sustainable use of resources while ensuring known environmental risks, bringing the science onto regulation.
3. Where are the strengths of the UA in your opinion?
Here the strengths are in line with the challenges because the UA holds a strong interdisciplinary suite of research areas. For instance the collaboration between various departments of e.g. CESAM and CICECO has been very important in this field of research. Obviously it is also a strength of UA to hold one of few ecotoxicogenomic research groups in the world. UA is also in an appealing geographical location, both in terms of life quality and research growth. Moreover, the possibility I have had to make independent research shows the maturity level achieved and has been not only attractive but also promoting responsible progress.
4. Could you give one idea to improve research in the UA?
Despite the referred strengths I believe that further collaboration should be facilitated and promoted. There is still room for improvement in terms of work conditions (facilities, office rooms, laboratories) which would better attract and keep good resources. Last but maybe ultimately important, the implementation of the announced researcher career in full will be a keystone to improve, maintain and avoid loss of good research in UA. Hence, an implementation of the research career will give the structure and the required support for a successful line.