Three IN researchers receive grants from the Junior Leader postdoctoral program of the ”la Caixa” Foundation

26 de March de 2024

Junior Leader grants promote independent scientific careers as a professional future option and encourage innovation and leadership.

La Caixa Foundation has awarded 105 doctoral and postdoctoral scholarships to excellent researchers to carry out their projects at universities and research centers in Spain and Portugal. The researchers from the Institute for Neurosciences (IN), a joint center of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Miguel Hernández University (UMH) of Elche, Maximilian Eggl, Teresa Guillamón, and Adrián Cárdenas have received 'Junior Leader' scholarships from the postdoc program.

These scholarships offer competitive salaries and transversal training, as they pursue the double objective of retaining and attracting talent to promote excellent research in the Iberian Peninsula. In the case of the postdoctoral program, the grants promote an independent scientific career as an option for a professional future and encourage innovation and leadership.

Study the brain non-invasively

Maximilian Eggl, who also is affiliated with the University of Bonn, Medical Center in Germany (Uniklinikum Bonn), aims to improve the use of diffusion-weighted MRI by incorporating real cell shapes to capture authentic morphologies and nuanced parameters of biological processes. With this technology, which is available in clinics around the world, he hopes to achieve an impact that will allow the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's. His project will combine techniques from experimental, mathematical, and machine learning areas to create a new way to study the brain non-invasively.

Eggl was born in London (UK) and has a PhD in Mathematics from Imperial College, London. His academic background includes training in Fluid Mechanics, Optimal Control Theory, and Neuroscience and he was previously a Postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University. Now, with this Junior Leader Incoming scholarship, he aims to work on his project in the Translational Imaging Biomarkers laboratory, directed by researcher Silvia De Santis.

Researcher Maximilian Eggl collecting his Junior Leader accreditation. ”la Caixa” Foundation

Predicting brain cancer progression

Teresa Guillamón Vivancos investigates the cellular and molecular mechanisms governing the development of cortical circuits. The goal of her Junior Leader Retaining project is to record neuronal and glial activity during normal development, but also in the context of brain cancer, in order to predict the progression of the disease with minimally invasive tools. To do this, she will apply wide-field calcium imaging to monitor brain activity in real-time across the entire neuraxis.

The researcher, born in Murcia, has a degree in Pharmacy from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid and a doctorate in Anatomy and Neurobiology from Boston University (USA). After this period abroad, Guillamón moved to Spain to research in the Development, Plasticity and Reprogramming of Sensory Circuits laboratory, directed by researcher Guillermina López-Bendito, where she developed a technique to visualize brain activity in vivo in mice during embryonic and early postnatal phases. Using this technique, they have made pioneering contributions in the field of Neurodevelopment, which have changed our understanding of the formation of sensory circuits.

Researcher Teresa Guillamón collecting his Junior Leader accreditation. ”la Caixa” Foundation

Study progenitors to understand cortical expansión

Thanks to the Junior Leader Retaining scholarship, Adrián Cárdenas Castelló will complete a postdoctoral degree in Cellular Biology in the Neurogenesis and Cortical Expansion laboratory, directed by Víctor Borrell. This funding will allow him to continue his studies on the mechanisms that have led to the emergence of new types of neuronal progenitors and their involvement in the expansion of the cerebral cortex throughout evolution. His project aims to describe all this diversity of progenitors in various animal species (ferrets, mice, chicken, and snakes), and determine which genes are involved in the appearance of one type or another of progenitors, and observe their impact on the expansion of the brain cortex.

Cárdenas was born in Agost (Alicante) and has a degree in Biology from the University of Alicante. His research focuses on understanding the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying normal and pathological development and evolution of the cerebral cortex.

Researcher Adrián Cárdenas collecting his Junior Leader accreditation. ”la Caixa” Foundation

Therefore, the Institute for Neurosciences adds six researchers who are developing cutting-edge research in this center of excellence thanks to funding from this foundation. In addition to the three winners mentioned above, the list is completed by Rafel Alcalá Vida, with a Junior Leader Incoming; Enrico Negri, with an INPhINIT Incoming doctoral scholarship; and Eduardo Fernández Ortuño, with an INPhINIT Retaining doctoral scholarship.

The Scholarship Program of ”la Caixa” Foundation stands out among those promoted by private entities at the European level, both for the number of scholarships offered and for the variety of disciplines of these scholarships. In total, the entity will allocate approximately 21 million euros to the promotion of INPhINIT doctoral scholarship holders and Junior Leader postdoctoral fellows. Both programs have been co-financed by the European Commission through the Marie Sklodowska-Curie COFUND Action, in the context of the Horizon 2020 framework program.

Source: Institute for Neurosciences CSIC-UMH ( / ”la Caixa” Foundation