The funding instruments Eccellenza and PRIMA of the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF enable highly qualified researchers to implement their projects within the framework of an assistant professorship at a Swiss university. In a series of interviews, we present six newly awarded researchers and their projects.
You have received an "Eccellenza Professorial Fellowship" from the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF. What does it mean to you to receive this Fellowship?
The Eccellenza Professorial Fellowship is highly competitive and provides good support for a new Principal Investigator to establish an independent research group. For me, receiving an Eccellenza-Fellowship was a major validation of my work and proposed project, which gives me the confidence that the team that I will lead at the University of Bern will be on the right path for great discoveries.
You have been selected from the SNF for your research project « Plant perception and adaption to elevated temperatures through changes in RNA structure». What is the project about?
My work has always been focused on understanding how RNAs, ribonucleic acids, work. Most of us know that RNAs are encoded by genes in the DNA, and that RNAs can encode for proteins. RNAs are molecules that can also fold into structures. Our understanding of what these structures do is very recent. It is already clear though that RNA structures are dynamic and can regulate protein synthesis, among many other processes. My group will study the role of RNA structures in plant adaptation to elevated temperatures. I’ve chosen this project because plants are exposed to temperature fluctuations on the daily and seasonal basis, and temperature is a major determinant of RNA structures. It is possible that evolution has selected RNA structures that are essential for plant adaptation to increased environmental temperatures.
What made you chose the University of Bern for your Project?
The University of Bern is a central hub in Switzerland in the study of RNAs, which is the main research topic of my project. At the Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS), my lab will be immersed in a very dynamic and exciting environment, which will likely spring new ideas and help us make our work more broadly relevant.
What is the social relevance of your project?
My research project has the potential to unveil critical tools used by plants to adapt and survive in warmer environments, such as those produced by global warming. This fundamental knowledge will be critical for our better understanding of basic plant biology and might help us produce plants better adapted to our warming planet.