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.

última atualização a 21-04-2016

Mónica Amorim graduated in Biology (1997, Univ. Coimbra), MsC in Ecology (2000), and a PhD in Biology (2004, Univ. Aveiro, split grant between Portugal and Germany). During 2005-6 she worked partly in Belgium and in Portugal, since then as researcher in CESAM, UA.

She has established a new international recognised high profile area – ecotoxicogenomics (less than 10 labs in the world) forming her own group, presently comprised by 9 researchers (6 PhD and 3 Post-Docs, all fully funded by FCT or EU, plus MsC and degree students). She already completed the supervision of 4 PhDs, 2 Post-Doc, 5 MsCs and several degree students.

Major scientific achievements include high throughput tools based on the transcriptome assembly for soil ecotoxicology model species (Enchytraeus crypticus) i.e. microarray platform [such tools are only available for 2 other soil and 3 aquatic ecotox species]. No such genomic tools were available for soil species, hence this represents a major step forward and with results in terms of understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms to stress. Other molecular tools were also developed e.g. cellular energy allocation, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, oxidative stress biomarkers. These are crucial tools to link responses at various levels of organization towards a systems biology approach.

Besides the science activities she has been active in general international promotion of environmental sciences. She was SETAC Europe president (2014-15), the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry is probably the largest worldwide ecotoxicology society (>6000 members); chaired the SETAC Soil Advisory Group (2005-12); coordinates the Post-Graduation course "Practical approach to ecotoxicogenomics" since 2007-14; has been invited to evaluate grants (e.g. from FCT) and project proposals.

She has published 75 papers; has an H index of 17 and 723 citations; 80% of the publications are with international authors showing the wide international network. She authored 2 book chapters. She joined international meetings (more than 50 platform and 50 poster presentations), been invited as keynote, acted as session chair, and organised sessions at SETAC (meetings 2005-2015) in e.g. genomics, Environmental OMICS (China 2011), and in nanoecotoxicology (Belgium 2014) co-organised the 7th SETAC Europe Special Science Symposium on "Fate and ecotoxicity of nanoparticles in the environment - current status and the way forward". Finally, has joined 4 international ring-tests which resulted in new OECD/ISO guidelines.

In terms of fund raising, as coordinator of projects during last 5 years account for ca. 1013.000 Euro, from 5 FCT (the last 200.000€ will be from 2016-19) and 1 Large-scale Integrating Collaborative EU-FP7 project (2013-2017, Proj. 604305) in nanotechnologies as WP responsible - this includes 35 partners of 16 countries and a total funding of 11 million Euro.


Dr. Mónica Amorim
Department of Biology & CESAM
Universidade de Aveiro
Campus Universitário de Santiago
3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal
Email:  mjamorim@ua.pt 

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