Six Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows are coming to the University of Bern

The University of Bern is welcoming six Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows this year. The "Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships", awarded annually by the European Commission, give experienced researchers the opportunity to enrich their scientific careers with a stay abroad.

Every year, the European Commission offers experienced researchers the opportunity to advance their career by spending two years researching at a university in another European country. It awards "Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships" to postdoctoral researchers for this purpose. The fellowships are funded by the European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020.

The aim of the funding programme is to support the career development of experienced researchers by enabling them to carry out an individual research project abroad to expand their skills. The researchers look for a supervisor in their field at a European university who can offer them an excellent environment for further education. In 2020, the University of Bern is welcoming six fellows and supporting them in taking the next step in their careers.

Focus on natural sciences and medicine

The six researchers coming to the University of Bern with a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship are addressing topics from the natural sciences and medicine in their research projects. "The range of research fields is broad," says Daniel Candinas, Vice-Rector for Research at the University of Bern. "We are delighted that our excellence in several areas is recognized throughout Europe and attracts experienced researchers."

The funded projects range from pest control and climate change, non-coding RNA for breast cancer and the "dark matter of the genome" to teamwork in the emergency room. The supervisors supporting the fellows are professors from the Institute of Plant Sciences, the Institute of Cell Biology, the Geographical Institute, the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR).

List of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellows

Dr. Lei Wang

Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Matthias Erb
Project title: Integration of volatile cues and plant peptide signals for enhanced herbivore resistance in tomato (InteCue)

Plants are often under threat of pests. How do they defend themselves? It is known that plants can perceive volatile cues to fend off pests. Plants can also produce small peptide signals to fight against pests. It is still unknown if plants can integrate volatile cues and peptide signals for enhanced pest resistance. The aim of "InteCue" is to investigate the capacity and mechanism of tomato plants to integrate volatile cues and peptide signals for stronger defense against pests. Upon success, this research will help to lay the foundation of breeding new pest resistant crops and developing efficient pest control strategies.

Dr. Agne Frismantiene 

Institute of Cell Biology, University of Bern
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Olivier Pertz
Project title: Deciphering oncogenic signalling patterns to break cancer drug resistance (NOSCAR)

Breast cancer is the leading cancer in women by incidence and the second cause of cancer-related death in the female population. To cure the more advanced and aggressive cases of breast cancer, modern, targeted chemotherapies have been proposed. However, cancer drug resistance limits the promise of targeted therapy. "NOSCAR" aims to better understand how cancer develops resistance to targeted therapies. To this end the project aims to study cell communication dynamics in breast cancer organoids at the single cell level in thousands of cells and over extended periods of time. This will allow to identify molecular vulnerabilities in cancer cell communication that might be targeted to break cancer resistance. 

Dr. Hugo Guillen Ramirez

Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR), University of Bern
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Rory Baldwin Johnson
Project title: Computational genomics of long noncoding RNA domains across metazoans (RNADOMAIN)

Previously disregarded as junk DNA, the so-called "dark matter of the genome" encompass RNA molecules that do not encode for proteins. In particular, long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) have been linked to pathophysiological processes. However, a full understanding of lncRNAs’ roles in disease requires us to solve the outstanding mystery of how the lncRNA sequences encode their functions. Aided by artificial intelligence algorithms, "RNADOMAIN" aims to shed light on this "sequence-function code" of lncRNAs as a means for targeting them in disease.

Dr. Tina Uroda

Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR), University of Bern
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Rory Baldwin Johnson
Project title: Linking sequence to function of long noncoding RNAs with CRISPR-Cas9 (CRISPR-Locate)

A great surprise in the wake of the Human Genome Project has been the discovery of vast numbers of RNAs that do not encode proteins. However less than 1% of these "long noncoding RNAs" (lncRNAs) have been experimentally characterised. To understand lncRNAs’ biological significance, we must solve the pressing question of how lncRNAs’ functions are encoded in their primary sequence. To answer that question the project aims to identify lncRNA domains and their function in a natural biological context via development of high-throughput techniques. Resulting maps of functional lncRNA domains will contribute to unlock the potential of 10^4 novel genes in medicine and biology.

Dr. Andrew Ronald Friedman

Institute of Geography, Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR), University of Bern
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Stefan Brönnimann
Project title: Assessing and QUantifying the ATlantic Instrumental hydroClimate (AQUATIC)

Global warming is projected to have pronounced impacts on the hydroclimate — including rainfall and river flow — in the tropical Atlantic basin, which contains the world’s largest river systems and rainforests, and growing populations. "AQUATIC" will compile recently-recovered measurements of precipitation, river discharge, and surface salinity from different archival sources to develop an integrated record of tropical Atlantic regional hydroclimate back to the late 19th century. The historical data will contribute to an understanding of the mechanisms of hydroclimate variability and constrain future climate projections.

Dr. Juliane Kämmer

Emergency Departement, Inselspital Bern, University of Bern
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Wolf Hautz
Project title: TeamUp: Understanding and improving team decision making in uncertain environments

(Better) Teamwork is supposed to be a key element in reducing the unacceptably high incidence of diagnostic error worldwide. The goal of the project "TeamUp" is to advance the understanding of decision processes in teams in uncertain, error prone environments such as the emergency room, and ultimately, to inform theory-based interventions to achieve diagnostic excellence. The project will thus contribute to a reduction of diagnostic errors, avoid unnecessary treatments, save healthcare costs, and ultimately enhance patient safety.