Mercedes Vila Juárez
Principal Investigator
TEMA-Mechanical Engineering Department
Universidade de Aveiro
Campus Universitário de Santiago
 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal 
Tel: +351 234 370 830


1. What are your personal perspectives as a researcher?
Throughout my scientific career, I have sought to successfully join interdisciplinary knowledge, from physics to biology, by actively pursuing complementary formation, including 10 years of mobility experience in different European laboratories in order to work with high level biomedicine and materials experts to acquire new and mandatory knowledge for my scientific aims. This factor has opened my mind to diverse scientific points of view that are a requirement for working in a research area as interdisciplinary as Nanomedicine.
Following this strategy, my current priorities as a researcher, are to make use of this acquired knowledge to establish a multidisciplinary team favoring national and international synergies, while initiating collaboration among expert groups in Europe through membership of excellence networks in bioengineering. Such activities will, ultimately, strengthen the individual position and generate professional stability. The research team I am building up will promote cooperation and will boost European Science and technology in an emergent state-of-the art area such as Nanomedicine.

2. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges in your area of research?
The application of engineered nanomaterials in research, development, and commercial products is widespread and has been growing rapidly. Nevertheless, there is currently no information or legislationt, regarding the safety and toxicity requirements for nanoparticles. Every nanosystem has different features concerning size, shape and surface properties, and needs to be investigated for achieving an optimized prototype that could be used in therapies without human body accumulation risks or any environmental impact.
Moreover, the application of these nanosystems for fighting against cancer is a potential future strategy to revolution the therapies that we accept as common, but which are mostly inefficient and carry more adverse effects than beneficial. Therefore, the design and understanding of how these nanosystems could be used in an innovative manner to control human tumoral processes, is one of the main keys to create new efficient therapies. In this way, we could fight against this illness and improve the health- related quality of life for people affected throughout the world, increasing the rate of success and reducing detrimental secondary effects.
Nevertheless, we cannot forget that although academic institutions, governments, and industrial facilities are expending significant resources in the pursuit of nanomaterial technologies to be applied in Medicine, there is still a limitation concerning the number of new products that are successfully introduced into the marketplace. So academic-industry links must be created and strengthened in order to successfully transfer the knowledge from universities to real applications. 

3. Where are the strengths of the UA in your opinion?
That is question I have been asked several times when I decided to move back here for creating a new research team and a new laboratory. The University of Aveiro has always supported me from the very beginning of my scientific career and I have always found here, a young and innovative environment that supports young researchers to develop their talents. The University of Aveiro offers a highly internationally oriented and interdisciplinary platform that facilitates multidisciplinary science. Moreover, it is a very active University in terms of scientific dissemination, so creating internal collaborations is highly accessible. The entire university infrastructure, scientific and administrative, that surrounds and supports us as researchers, is perfect for helping us to develop science.

4. Could you give one idea to improve research in the UA?
One of the most important ways of supporting science is taking care of the scientific researchers. University of Aveiro needs better contracting programs and an organized career path for its Investigators. Frequently, researchers that have invested huge efforts in creating new research lines and supporting them during many years end up leaving because of their precarious future without permanent or long-term contracts. This fact is a serious issue and it is stopping the faster and continued development of science. 
Moreover, now that we are confronting an economic crisis which directly affects us and our opportunity of getting funding for performing our research, we have to, more than ever, get conscious that money should be attracted from European funding. The University of Aveiro is doing a good effort on spreading information, and is helping us in all administrative matters very efficiently. But we are competing with European universities that have specific professional offices for assisting researchers in writing projects and analyzing future failures. As a suggestion, the UA should create a strong European office with scientific qualified personnel able to assist all researchers interested in writing projects, without having to depend on the FCT contact points which have to assist all Portugal. 

última atualização a 30-07-2014

About me

Mercedes Vila received her PhD suma cum laude in Materials Physics from the Autonomous University of Madrid, Spain, in 2003 for her work carried out at the Materials Science Institute of Madrid (Spanish National Research Council CSIC). After 5 years of international post-doctoral experience on the design of biomaterials for regenerative medicine, funded by the European Commission through Marie Curie actions and National Spanish and Portuguese scientific Programs, she spent 5 years as a researcher in one of the most prominent European groups of Nanomedicine and Regenerative Medicine, at the Faculty of Pharmacy (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain).
In 2010 she was awarded with the Lóreal-UNESCO Award "For Women in Science" as recognition of her scientific career as young researcher in Bone Regenerative Medicine and in 2012, she was positively evaluated as Distinguished Researcher through the Programme I3 (Incentives for strengthening of research activity of lecturers-researchers with a prestigious research track record, Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology).
In 2013 she joined University of Aveiro (Portugal) as Principal Investigator of the Nanotechnology research division of TEMA research unit, where nowadays is the coordinator of the research line of Nanomedicine. Her interests are focused on the design and applications of nanoparticles as vectors for imaging and hyperthermia of tumors, the understanding of nanoparticles-cells interactions, and studying the cell growth stimulation by the use of external physical stimuli.


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