Ivana Nikolic

Ivana Nikolić, the valedictorian of 2005, postdoctoral researcher, Spanish National Center for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC), Madrid (Spain)

I graduated Molecular biology and physiology at Faculty of Biology, University of Belgrade in Belgrade, Serbia in 2010. The same year I started my PhD studies in Immunology at the same Faculty, which I finished in October 2014. In my PhD project I studied pharmacological modulation of autoimmune type 1 diabetes by carbon monoxide-releasing molecule CORM-A1 (Diabetologia and Scand J Immunol). I won the prize from “Goran Ljubijankić” Foundation for
the best doctoral dissertation in the field of molecular biology for 2014. During the PhD, I was awarded very competitive Albert Renold Fellowship granted by the EFSD and I spent three months in the laboratory of Dr. Stellan Sandler at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden.

In April 2015 I started my post-doctoral investigation at the laboratory of Dr. Guadalupe Sabio: Stress kinases in Diabetes, Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease, at CNIC, Madrid, Spain.

For my postdoctoral research I was selected for a highly competitive, international fellowship: CNIC IPP FP7 Marie Curie Program (2015-2018). One of my postdoctoral project was the study of the role of stress activated protein kinases p38g and p38d in development of non-alcoholic liver disease and steatosis. We found that obese patients have increased expression of p38g/d
in liver and that these two kinases control liver steatosis by modulating neutrophil infiltration. I was selected to present these results at the Annual Meeting of Immunological Society of Serbia in April 2016 (oral presentation) and we published it in EMBO Journal (González-Terán B*, Matesanz N*, Nikolic I*, et al, EMBO J 2016; 35(5):536-52. *shared the first authorship).
Later on, I focused my investigation on adipose tissue-specific role of p38d in brown adipose tissue (BAT) thermogenesis. To work in this project, I won a very competitive EFSD/Lilly Young Investigator Research Award Programme (2017; 50 000 EUR) that is given to a young, innovative investigator in the fields of diabetes and its complications and to promote excellence in medical education. During this project, I had opportunity to show my leadership
abilities and we found that that lack of p38a in adipose tissue protected mice against high fat diet-induced obesity by increasing energy expenditure and BAT thermogenesis the activation of the other p38 isoform, p38δ. Our results were published in PLOS Biology (Matesanz N*, Nikolic I*, et al, PLOS Biol 2018; 16(7):e2004455. *shared the first authorship) and I was selected to give a short talk at XL SEBBM Congress in Barcelona, 2017.

In 2019 I started a project to study the role of stress kinases in T cells in obesity. For this project I was granted for the second time EFSD/Lilly Young Investigator Research Award (2019), I was also awarded prestigious and competitive EFSD Rising Star Fellowship, aimed for promising and innovative young researchers, and Fellowship Juan de la Cierva Incorporacion (2019-2022) funded by Spanish State Programme for the Promotion of Talent and its Employability in R&D&I.As a result of my professional engagement, I published 20 research articles (8 as a first author, 1 review as a co-corresponding author) in different peer-reviewed journals in the field of Immunology and Diabetes. Multitasking across simultaneous projects allowed me to further develop my leadership abilities and to manage and lead projects in all aspects (budget, study design, execution of experiments, study results dissemination).

Since the science is not only the research, but also sharing the knowledge and experience, I am actively involved in the mentoring of undergraduate students: mentor of 2 CICERONE students at CNIC (2017); mentor at XL SEBBM Congress in Barcelona – Supervisor “Iniciación a la Investigación” (2017), and a co-mentor of MSc Thesis (2018) and PhD Thesis (ongoing).

I was also invited lecturer at MSc program 2019/2020 Animal models in immunology at Faculty of Medicine, Complutense University of Madrid. Furthermore, I participated in the organization of CNICPhDay 2015 and 2020 (postponed due to COVID-19), annual meeting organized by PhD students and postdoctoral researchers from CNIC. I presented my results at more than 13 national and international congresses (oral presentation: 13th Young Scientists Forum, FEBS, St Petersburg 2013; Annual Meeting of Immunological Society of Serbia in 2012, 2014 and 2016, XL SEBBM Congress in Barcelona 2017, 55th EASD Annual Meeting in Barcelona in 2019; and IMMUNOLOGY AT THE

Also, I won the Best Poster Award at the 2nd Congress of Serbian Society for Mitochondrial and Free Radical Physiology, 2013.