From Ukraine to the world with FEBS and IUBMB

Daria Navrotska is a plant molecular biologist at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, in Kyiv. She has been awarded an IUBMB Wood-Whelan Research Fellowship to do research in Germany and has also taken part in several FEBS activities in the past.
From Ukraine to the world with FEBS and IUBMB

I was first introduced to the world of FEBS in 2016, when I attended the X Parnas Conference (Wroclaw, Poland) as a Ph.D. student. It was also my first major and international conference, where I had the opportunity to present my research and meet many interesting scientists. Although travelling from a non-European country to the venue was a bit challenging, I found the scientific community there to be friendly and open.

Group photo of eight people facing the camera, standing on a square with a church spire in the background.
Part of the Ukrainian delegation at the
X Parnas Conference (Wroclaw, Poland, 2016).
Photo by the Palladin Institute of Biochemistry
of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
(Kyiv, Ukraine).

Some time later – as I had previous experience with fluorescence in situ hybridisation before – I became attracted to studying gene expression using RNA in situ hybridisation. Fortunately, I had the honour of receiving a FEBS Short-Term Fellowship (STF) in 2020 to conduct research using this technique in the group of Prof. Thomas Greb (Centre for Organismal Studies Heidelberg, Germany). It was a really great opportunity to expand my knowledge and skills about this method, which is not established in my home country, Ukraine. It also allowed me to take my first steps in the field of plant development. I remember the challenges I faced, but also the support I received from my colleagues and supervisors to quickly adapt to the new environment, both at the institute and in the foreign city. My favourite moment was when I got my first results and realised that all my hard work had paid off. With the support of the other scientists and my own determination, I was able to obtain data in a relatively short time, which also helped to initiate our collaboration over the next few years.

After 24 February 2022, when a full-scale war against Ukraine began and Kyiv was on the verge of occupation, it was very difficult to understand what to do next and whether there was a place for research and science in the future. Thanks to our brave defenders, the city stood up. And it gave a new impetus to believing in and working for the restoration and improvement of Ukrainian science. I decided to help my country by acquiring cutting-edge knowledge and developing my profession in order to pass it on to new generations of young scientists. Thanks to the funding support of FEBS, I had the great opportunity to attend the 22nd Young Scientists' Forum (YSF) and the 47th FEBS Congress "Together in bioscience for better future" (Tours, France) in 2023. It was an honour to present and discuss the results of my STF at this meeting. I remember thinking how much effort, enthusiasm and collaboration was going on within the FEBS community.

Daria (second from the left) was one of the winners of the
FEBS Junior Section T-Shirt Raffle, FEBS Congress 2023, Tours.

It was there that I first heard about the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (IUBMB). For some time, I had wanted to gain new relevant scientific experience and skills in fluorescence-activated nuclei sorting and single-cell RNA-seq techniques and I was delighted to be awarded an IUBMB Wood-Whelan Research Fellowship to conduct research in the group of Prof. Sebastian Wolf at the Center for Plant Molecular Biology (ZMBP), University of Tübingen, Germany. For a young scientist, the IUBMB Wood-Whelan Research Fellowship is a great chance to gain a deeper insight into the field of plant physiology and development. I am looking forward to being immersed in a vibrant and stimulating research environment in Prof. Wolf's group at ZMBP. It will help me to acquire advanced knowledge and skills that are currently not available in my laboratory in Ukraine. In addition, I expect it to be very beneficial for my future scientific path and academic career.

Center for Plant Molecular Biology (ZMBP) of the University of Tübingen (left) and Tübingen city center (right), in Germany. Photos provided by Prof. Wolf's Group at ZMBP.

In the long term, I would like to see the level of research and scientific infrastructure in Ukraine improve to European levels. This will help to close the gap between Eastern and Western scientific standards, and allow more Ukrainians to study and conduct high-quality research in their home country. Moreover, I would like to believe that one day we will have the opportunity to organise one of the future FEBS Congresses in Ukraine.

On this occasion, I would like to recommend young scientists not to be afraid to apply for the various FEBS and IUBMB fellowships and awards, and to set their goals high. I think it is important to be motivated and to have a good project in order to be successful. In the future, I would like to continue working in science and support young scientists by sharing my knowledge and experience for the benefit of science.

Top photo by Silver Ringvee on Unsplash

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