Meet our Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellows

Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions - Postdoctoral Fellowships (PF) are individual funding opportunities aimed at boosting promising researchers' careers through worldwide and cross-sectoral mobility. Their duration varies from 12 up to 36 months, and fellows can carry out their research at an host institution in Europe and/or in a third Country.

The next sliders contain information about the candidates who have applied to MSCA-PF with the Complutense University as host institution and have been formally invited to receive funding by the European Commission.

Acronym: 

NeuroCon

Title: 

Understanding the mechanisms of pain modulation through expectations (conscious and unconscious) in placebo analgesia induced in the context of fear conditioning - MEG and EEG study

Objective:

Chronic pain patients cannot be efficiently treated with pharmacological methods and hence investigating alternatives such as psychological-based treatments is essential. One of the well-recognised method of analgesia is placebo which is based on learning processes – classical conditioning (CC). Through CC, expectations about pain relief are formed and those are recognised to mediate the placebo effect. Moreover, the effects of CC play a prominent role in the development of chronic pain-related fear and disability, so investigating the basis of fear conditioning may help developing better pain management strategies.


Expectations about pain relief are shown to reduce the activation of pain-related brain regions and cues associated with pain decrease are processed in higher-order areas of the brain. However, the latest studies are inconclusive in determining to what extent expectations are elicited consciously or unconsciously and it is suggested that it depends the way the effect is generated - simple conditioning or conditioning with verbally induced expectations. In order to bring new light on this subject, the neural basis of the process and how the brain activity changes in order to recognise relevant and irrelevant information during conditioning still needs further investigation.


In order to understand the relation between CC and expectancy in placebo analgesia, this project will implement both types of CC in the context of basic fear conditioning procedure. The brain activity will be measured using MEG and EEG technique and investigated using multiple methods of signal analysis which is a novelty in placebo research. The aim of the project is investigating how sensory cortices are modified to better detect relevant information using MEG and studying anticipatory brain activity using EEG. It may provide an answer to what extent conscious and unconscious processes are involved in pain modulation and what regions of are involved in this process.

Acronym: 

INTRANCES

Title: 

Integrated modelling of transport scenarios from stakeholders for air quality and emissions

Objective:

In order to ensure full compliance with EU policy objectives for climate, air quality and sustainable development integrated transport strategies are needed for Europe’s towns and cities. However, incorporating such schemes into broader urban planning strategies is challenging, and achieving stakeholder buy-in often means the difference between success and failure. The INTRANCES project engages key stakeholders (land use and transport planning experts and transport users) in integrated participatory modelling of land use and transport scenarios to help address EU policy goals. The aim of the project is to test the feasibility of different transport strategies, identify win-win solutions that simultaneously address multiple goals, and signal potential problems in implementation leading to recommendations for sustainable transport policy in Madrid and other cities across the EU. Building on the fellow’s previous experience in participatory land use modelling, and the host’s significant expertise in policy relevant transport research, INTRANCES develops an urban simulation model to output indicators for land use, transport and energy and emissions based on scenarios developed by key stakeholders. In addition to this knowledge exchange between host and fellow, the fellowship draws on the additional knowledge of key experts in air pollution modelling, urban planning, and integrated scenario modelling, including a 3-month secondment at a commercial consultancy in the Netherlands. This multi-way process of knowledge exchange is of high strategic value to the host and secondment partner and is expected to significantly enhance the fellow’s career prospects, both in academia and beyond. Its research objectives will lead to insights and recommendations for current and future efforts to implement sustainable transport across the EU.

Acronym: 

SPOT

Title: 

SPOT - Synthesis of Pretargeted Oncology Theranostics

Objective:

To overcome size-related drawbacks of intact antibodies (Ab) for active tumor targeting, small but multivalent Ab-fragments, which fall in the “ideal tumor targeting zone”, are gaining increasing interest. However, the achieved benefits of Ab-fragments are lost when conjugated to imaging probes or drug carriers. Therefore, the SPOT action is going to focus on the generation of small Ab-fragments with highly specific targeting capacities and deep tissue penetration that are able to subsequently undergo a bioorthogonal click reaction at the tumor site. As cancer model, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which currently still has an extremely poor prognosis, is going to be targeted. Two different click reaction will be evaluated: The cycloaddition between tetrazine and trans-cyclooctene (TCO) as well as azide and dibenzocyclooctyne (DBCO), whereby the Ab-fragments are functionalized with the TCO and DBCO groups. The opponent moieties are attached to alginate and hyaluronic acid-based ligands, which are subsequently introduced to the nanoparticle’s (NP) surface, additionally providing shielding from the immunological system. After the accumulation of the clickable Ab-fragments at the tumor site and their clearance from healthy tissue, the imaging or drug-delivering NPs with the opponent clickable moieties are injected, allowing for their exclusive accumulation at the pretargeted tumor site. For effective visualization of PDAC tissue, state-of-the-art silver sulfide NPs, with a high contrast-to-noise ratio and deep tissue imaging, are applied. The use of these NPs can be a significant step towards early PDCA diagnosis and therefore providing better chances for a positive treatment outcome. For the pretargeted drug-delivery approach, poly(lactic acid)-based NPs with encapsulated gemcitabine or docetaxel generated via electrospraying are going to be tested as a potential chemotherapeutic approach for PDAC, preforming small animal in vivo studies with PDAC xenografts.

Acronym: 

SPFPs

Title: 

Photo-Fenton degradation of Persistent Organic Pollutants present in Real Contaminated Waters using Solar pilot plant Reactors

Objective:

In 2009, Lindane was included in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) to achieve the global elimination of these substances. This international treaty mandates an irreversible destruction of POPs into non-POPs. Consequently, development of cost-effective, safe and environmentally technologies for the destruction of POPs is necessary.


Although the Advanced Oxidation Processes (AOPs) are efficient in the treatment of this pollutants, many have the disadvantage of their high cost. A very useful alternative from the economic and environmental point of view is the use of solar energy integrated to these processes. This is Solar photo-Fenton Process (SPFPs).
A detailed study associated with the photo-Fenton degradation of POPs (Lindane) present in real contaminated waters using a pilot plant Solar Reactor (SR) is proposed. This development includes an experimental work and rigorous mathematical modelling of photochemical reactors (laboratory and pilot plant scale), considering the fundamentals of chemical reactions (reaction mechanisms) and transport phenomena (mass and energy). The contaminated waters will be obtained at the Bailin landfill Sabiñánigo (Spain). The propose project addresses an environmental issue, highly relevant for current EU policies, included in UN Sustainable Development Goals, point 6 “Clean Water and Sanitation”.


The innovative non-concentrate SR proposed aims to provide an economical/efficient alternative solution to this problem. This technology development would be used for many industries or communes that require an efficient treatment of their effluents. Based on the SR proposed, and considering the results obtained, the patent of these unit will be evaluated.


The proposed realistic/highly ambitious work plan will be consistent with the extension of the call (24 mons.) The results obtained will be widely disseminated, not only in the scientific, but also in the academic and in the social.

Acronym: 

ATTO-CONTROL

Title: 

Attosecond X-ray Molecular Dynamics and Strong-Field Control

Objective:

The development in recent years of ultrashort light sources in the attosecond regime has opened new avenues for the investigation of electronic and nuclear dynamics. In particular, the current development of UV-XUV or UV-X-ray pump-probe schemes with subfemtosecond temporal resolution represents a doorway to study chemical reactions in excited states of molecules in real-time, including biological reactions, such as e.g. those related to DNA damage and mutations.

The aim of this project is to understand and ultimately control photochemical reactions in excited states of polyatomic molecules, especially relating to two fundamental processes in biology and chemistry: (i) cis-trans photoisomerization and (ii) the internal conversion of pi-pi*/n-pi* states in organic chromophores. Two top-notch experimental methods will be employed to achieve this goal: attosecond X-ray transient absorption (X-ATAS) at the University of California at Berkeley (United States), where the fellowship will be carried out under the supervision of Prof. S. Leone, and three-color femtosecond pump-probe velocity map imaging (fs-VMI) at Complutense University of Madrid (Spain), where the incoming phase will take place under the supervision of Prof. L. Bañares.

The project is divided in three specific objectives and work-packages. Firstly, the powerful X-ATAS method will be employed to observe dynamics in real-time through individual carbon atom spectra and disentangle the dynamics underlying these processes in two polyatomic targets –nitroethylene and transbutadiene– and two bio-relevant ones –thymine and citosine. Secondly, attosecond control in real-time using X-ATAS on the pi-pi*/ n-pi* internal conversion in thymine will be performed in a pioneering experiment. Finally, effective femtosecond control with fs-VMI of these processes in nitroethylene and trans-butadiene, molecules of interest for technologies, will be performed based on the relevant results from the X-ATAS experiments

Acronym: 

ADAPT

Title: 

An adaptation-based approach to understand resilience after job loss: Identifying the underlying mechanisms leading to adaptive coping and re-employment

Objective:

Unemployment represents a major societal problem in Europe, strongly related to increasing depression and anxiety rates and high economic costs. In line with European policies on mental health, enhancing resilience against the adverse effects of job loss is a timely priority. In ADAPT, I propose a novel framework and advanced methods to identify the psychological mechanisms (adaptation-based attention and emotion regulation processes) promoting adaptive coping after job loss and facilitating higher possibilities for re-employment. ADAPT is highly original and timely for current societal needs, providing: a) a novel framework beyond traditional approaches in the study of resilience, largely failing to provide successful mental health promotion deliverables; b) fine-grained analyses of adaptation-based mechanisms that can be easily targeted in future assistance protocols; c) integrative analyses of both positive and negative resilience outcomes typically studied in isolation; and d) analyses of dynamics at both short- (immediate daily functioning following layoff) and long-time scales (multi-wave follow-ups across the months following job loss), providing a whole view on the stress-resilience trajectories following unemployment that is lacking in former research. The proposal includes a well-defined program of two-way transfer of knowledge including high-quality training in new advanced techniques for the candidate. ADAPT represents an actual attempt to reach relevant stakeholders in the social assistance and mental health sectors to develop innovative programs of mental health’s promotion. The action will generate knowledge that can be ultimately used to develop interdisciplinary deliverables, including advanced e-tools for early detection of sources of conflict following job loss and guidelines for outplacement services on effective strategies and training protocols to promote adaptive functioning in unemployed seeking assistance.

Acronym: 

OXWALD

Title: 

2D Oxide and van der Waals layered devices

Objective:

Two-dimensional (2D) Van der Waals (VdW) materials have started a new era in the physics and chemistry of materials full of exciting challenges in fundamental science and also holding impressive technological promises connected to their atomic scale thickness. However, electrons in current 2D materials, with graphene being the most representative example, do not “feel” each other and their electronic properties are interpreted within single particle models. Correlated 3d transition metal oxides (CCO) are prototype correlated materials where the unscreened Coulomb repulsion between electrons in narrow 3d bands gives rise to a delicate entanglement between electronic attributes: charge, orbital and spin. Their complex interactions is at the bottom of non-trivial entanglements responsible for a wide variety of electronic ground states (superconductivity, multiferroicity, spin or charge order, quantum magnets, etc). Moreover, these electronic phases can be manipulated by external stimuli (electric field, light, magnetic field etc) giving rise to a plethora of coupled responses. Typically these CCOs present broader range of functionalities than conventional 2D materials. In OXWALD the fellow Victor Rouco, will search for new synthesis strategies of 2D CCO freestanding monolayers, and their combinations in multifunctional heterostructures with conventional VdW materials. The main goal will be to imprint electron correlated groundstates into the one-electron states of vdW materials. This fellowship will be carried out at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) under the supervision of Prof. Jacobo Santamaria with a secondment at the Institute of Materials Research ICMM-CSIC also in Madrid.

Acronym: 

ROJAVA

Title: 

The Kurds in Syria: A complex interplay between local, regional and transnational

Objective:

While extremely graphic images from the Syrian civil war appearing at the world media, smiling young Kurdish female guerrillas at the cover of magazines such as Elle, Marie Claire presented another picture. Kurdish fighters have become driving forces in offensives against ISIS and gained worldwide news coverage. However, the story of the Kurds in Syria is more than this.


The Kurds who had been deprived of their fundamental national rights, including the citizenship had no status in Syria. With the collapse of the central state, they carved out three enclaves, named them Cantons and declared a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria. So, rather than talking about the ‘jihad’, as most of the other rebels did; they engaged in creating a self-governing model based on this area, called Rojava in Kurdish. That model based on criticizing the existing nation-states in the region promoted the equality between different (ethnic/religious) groups, advocated the empowerment of women and functioned on the bottom-up constructed local councils as the main sites of governance.


This project which looks at how alternative spaces of governance are created investigates the emergence of that model in that autonomous region, tracing back to its ‘founding ideas’ and also look at the influence of the self-governing experience of the Kurds in Syria on the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq. So it aims to contribute to the understanding of the behaviour of the groups in a civil war and of the possibilities in creating a successful transition to a post-war context. In doing this, it aims at bringing the different perspectives and scales into the same analysis. Furthermore, the project aims to connect discussions of place making and constitutive politics with that of social movements.

Acronym: 

ProFrost

Title: 

Theoretical and Numerical Analysis of Antifreeze and Ice Nucleator Proteins:Coarse-Grain Approach for Multiscale Study and Bio-Engineering

Objective:

In nature there are many organisms able to control the ice nucleation rate of water. This ability allows such organisms to adapt to environmental changes, like large temperatures excursions, and to facilitate the search for food.

Bio-molecules such as antifreeze proteins (AFPs) and ice nucleator proteins (INPs) are known to influence the ice nucleation rate, a feature that attracts great interest from a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines like biology and atmospheric science, and it offers several technological applications like cryo-preservation of tissues and increasing frozen food shelf life. I propose a new approach, based on a novel combination of water-protein coarse-grain model, able, for a wide range of temperatures and pressures, to deeply explore the configurational space of a water-protein solutions. The ProFrost project aims at defining a novel theoretical framework within which it will be possible to study how the folding properties of AFPs and INPs affect the thermodynamic state point of water.

The main goal of the project is to understand the influence of protein interfaces on the dynamical and structural properties of water. The success of this project will pave the way for the computer based design of artificial functionalized protein sequences capable of influencing the phase of water. This project follows an innovative research line, with a multi-scale approach that combines multiple fields of research, such as physics, biology and chemistry. This research due to its interdisciplinary character and broad interest, has large impact and is often subject of publications on relevant international scientific journals, such as Nature, Science, Proceeding of National Academy of Science, Physical Review Letters. ProFrost will carried out under the supervision Prof Carlos Vega, a leading expert on water, and in collaboration with Prof. Dellago and Dr. Coluzza, expert in modelling and simulations of biophysical systems.

Acronym: 

PCMNano

Title: 

Using Phase Change Materials for the Base Suspension in the Creation of NanoFluids

Objective:

Nano-fluids (fluid bases with a nano-particle suspension) and Phase Change Materials (PCM) provide innovative ways to handle the increased need for heat transfer and thermal efficiency. But information regarding the thermal properties (thermal conductivity, thermal diffusivity, enthalpy of transformation, enthalpy of fusion/melting, enthalpy of vaporization, specific heat, melting temperature, and crystallization temperature) of nano-fluids and PCMs is limited and antiquated. Therefore, is the purpose of this action to determine the thermal properties of a number of PCMs to then use as the base fluid for a number of nano-fluids. This will be done by measuring n-alkanes in both the solid and liquid phases using the transient hot wire and the differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) techniques. When possible, the obtained results will be compared with the scarcely available literature data. Lastly, the creation of a thermal properties prediction model for the nano-fluids will be attempted.

Acronym: 

ILBIB

Title: 

Ireland and Late-Georgian British Imaginings of Belonging: With Particular Reference to William Wordsworth

Objective:

Belonging – a concept at the heart of which lies a yearning for home – has domestic, regional, national, and even cosmopolitan implications. It was a particularly important concept in late-Georgian Britain (c. 1780-1830), during which time socio-political instabilities fostered an inward-looking impetus, prompting Britons to ask what home meant and what attachment to home entailed.

This project looks at Ireland’s place in late-Georgian British imaginings of national and intranational belonging. Various forms of art – verbal, visual, and aural – will be analysed to show how the story of belonging overflowed formal limitations and became strategically embodied in art.

To provide a foundation from which to branch out into various writers, artists, ideas, contexts, and works of art – which are selected across national and gender boundaries – I shall focus on the English poet William Wordsworth (1770-1850). Whilst Wordsworth’s writings about Scotland, Wales, and Continental Europe have been explored, his relationship with Ireland has yet to be fully studied.

This project contributes to recent scholarly work on British travellers in pre-Famine Ireland, as well as to studies of Romantic writers’ Irish experiences. Focusing on the theme of belonging, this project revisits the debates, in humanistic geography, about the processes of mediation and remediation in which ‘space’ is turned into ‘place’, or, in another theoretical framework, into lieux de mémoire. But the central theoretical concern is to tease out the complex ways in which the story of belonging was framed in various cultural media and the socio-political implications of various forms of 'strategic storytelling'.

This project will redress the marginalisation of Ireland in English literary studies, which reflects an abiding set of cultural prejudices against Ireland that are still perceptible even in twenty-first-century Britain and Europe, even after the Troubles in Northern Ireland had subsided.

Acronym: 

CAlCULUS

Title: 

Causes And ConseqUences of Low Urban accessibility. Defining proper policy responses

Objective:

An efficient and just transport system is a key element of sustainable development and an indispensable component of coherent modern societies. Improving accessibility and reducing its disparities are the means that bridge the reduction of negative transportation outcomes with a positive response to the increased mobility needs of contemporary societies. This places accessibility at the core of the main challenges of EU’s urban areas. A proper identification of causes of low accessibility combined with a profound knowledge of the outcomes of a particular pattern facilitate the formulation of the most efficient policy response that leads towards social inclusion, an increase of well-being, and a fully-fledged citizenship of contemporary societies. The CAlCULUS project aims to deepen understanding of the causes and consequences of unfavourable accessibility patterns in order to develop a decision-support model which facilitates more efficient and just transport management. The growing potential of smart cities and the recent development of big data mining provide new opportunities for innovative analyses of accessibility and travel behaviour. The previous experience of the fellow in the field of accessibility and international comparative urban studies, together with the host’s expertise in the application of big data for transport research, create perfect conditions for the implementation of the proposed research project. The influential position of the UCM and the experience of its Scientific Culture and Dissemination Unit guarantee efficient communication of the project results to diverse target groups and facilitate public engagement. Mentoring from the supervisor, and the support of the host institution which includes dedicated training opportunities, teaching involvement, and the development of management skills, will be a milestone in a path towards research maturity and will lay the foundations for the future establishment of the fellow’s own research team.

Acronym: 

MicroNICHE

Title: 

Microfluidic-assisted fabrication of artifical microniches for bone marrow stem cells

Objective:

There is a growing interest in adult stem cells, especially from bone marrow, for regenerative medicine. Hematopoietic stem cells, a type of bone marrow stem cells, alone cannot be expanded in vitro; in vivo, they reside in a microenvironment known as a niche that maintains them in a quiescent state until prompted to differentiate. The stem cell niche provides structural and trophic support and the appropriate homeostasis to regulate stem cell function. Additionally to regulatory factors in these stem cell niches, a number of environmental and mechanical signals arising from the extracellular matrix are crucial regulators of stem cell fate. In order to expedite for basic studies of bone marrow stem cells, and further translational implementation, any realistic approach to the native stem cell niche requires: to engineer a biomimetic 3D-microenvironment, and then to develop artificial microniches with the key functional features reconstructed. High-throughput microfluidic technology offers high promise, however, adaptation to accommodate adult stem cells in artificially fabricated niches remains still a challenge. Microfluidic-assisted culture systems should not only allow maintaining cell homeostasis through biochemical and mechanical stimulation, but also modulating adult stem cell renewal and differentiation through microscale patterning of cells and extracellular materials in biomimetic microniches. This project aims at the microfluidic reconstruction of an artificial stem cell niches. In this proof-of-concept, a bone marrow stem cell microniche with tunable size, material and topography will be developed by integrating novel fabrication microfluidics with material engineering.

Acronym: 

APTASENS

Title: 

A new generation of AptaSensors

Objective:

The aim of this project is to design different next generation libraries of biosensors that will yield ready-to-go analytical tools against any target in unprecedented speed and high affinity. The project intends to focus on aptamers, a new generation of recognition elements that will be integrated into bioelectronics devices.
The huge number of candidates to be tested using a combinatorial trial and error approach will be radically reduced by rationalizing the strategy to design the aptamers. A new virtual screening process will be used for the generation of aptamers by the help of modern molecular modelling tools. The design and binding of large database will be created and screened by adding or mutating molecule bricks (amino acids and DNA), minimizing experimental tests and therefore reducing the research costs.
These sensor elements will be organized in medium to high density nucleic acid and peptide arrays with different transducing principles. In particular, we will design and produce an electrochemical sensor array platform based on screen printing technology together with suitable extraction- and pre-concentration procedures by coupling aptamers to nanoparticles.


The analytical procedures produced will be tested using first standards and then real samples. The target molecules will be analytes related to health and safety control (Xenobiotics: e.g. PCB, pesticides. Mycotoxins: e.g. patulin, nivalenol, Antioxidants: e.g. resveratrol, luteolin).


The proposal has strong focus on development of concrete evolutionary new biosensors for application to diagnostics, food, terrorism threat agents, environmental and new frontiers analysis such as bioanalysis in the space.

Acronym: 

CLIMAGNET

Title: 

How is the external climatic forcing affected by the Earth’s magnetic field?

Objective:

The rate of production of cosmogenic isotopes plays an important role in our understanding of past climate variability since they provide information about the solar irradiance related to the Sun’s magnetic field. Having reliable information about past changes in solar irradiance is important for the development of climate model simulations driven by reconstructions of past natural and anthropogenic forcings. One of the sources of uncertainty that affect reconstructions of solar variability is that not only the influence of the solar magnetic field is recorded by the radionuclides; the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field also contributes to modulate the rate of isotope productions. In this context, an appropriate knowledge of the past global geomagnetic field variations is crucial to define the total solar irradiance and hence, to improve reconstructions of external forcing. The past evolution of the geomagnetic field can be recovered from rock samples. The main differences between model predictions are related with the filter applied to the palaeomagnetic data. Up to now, these filters rejected the data according to the measurement and age uncertainties. However, this procedure does not consider the quality of the laboratory protocol or the number of specimens, and hence geomagnetic field predictions might be affected by some unreliable data. Currently, the non-appropriate application of these filters generates spurious variations in the geomagnetic model predictions and these biases are transferred to the reconstruction of the solar variability and consequently to the climatic model simulations. The CLIMAGNET project is aimed to resolve this challenge in two scopes: a) the construction of a global geomagnetic model for the last eight millennia using an appropriate weighting scheme of the palaeomagnetic data; b) the study of the relation between the geomagnetic model predictions and the production rate of cosmogenic isotopes using novel approaches.

Acronym: 

GUNPRESS

Title: 

The Underground Press during the Greek Civil War

Objective:

After the liberation of Greece the leftist publications experienced a short period of legality. From 1944 until 1946 more than 300 newspapers and magazines were published; but they were on the verge of a very thin and fragile legitimacy. This period did not last long: the eruption of the Greek Civil War pushed them back in illegality. On December 27, 1947 the Sofoulis government passed the “Obligatory Law 509” which banned the Communist Party and the pro-communist press. “The promotion of ideas which have the overt purpose to overthrow the regime by violent means, the overthrow of the detaining social system and the detachment of a part of the national territory” would be punished with imprisonment or death. If this offense was committed by the press, “the responsibility would lie with the author, the director or the publisher of the newspaper”.


From the introduction of “Law 509” until the end of the civil war in 1949, the Communist Party, the Democratic Army of Greece, the Greek Agrarian Party and other pro-communist organizations published more than 130 newspapers and magazines in order to propagandize their political ideas and deconstruct the anti-communist propaganda. These publications were usually issued in mountainous areas controlled by the Democratic Army.


The proposed project will use these newspapers in order to provide new elements and alternative interpretations on the “child abduction” and the “role of the women” which are two major and debatable issues of the Greek Civil War, it will compare for the first time some aspects of the Greek and the Spanish clandestine press and it will draw the image of Spain in order to discover and highlight new similarities and differences of the two cases.

Acronym: 

TOXOSHEEP

Title: 

Study of the molecular mechanisms underlying Toxoplasma-induced early abortions in a pregnant sheep model of infection

Objective:

Toxoplasma gondii is a major cause of abortion in humans and livestock, thereby producing a significant public health hazard and economic losses. Most of Toxoplasma’s virulence factors have been explored using mouse models; however, the murine immune response differs significantly from that of humans and farm animals. Despite Toxoplasma’s enormous economic and health implications, little is known about the factors that cause foetal mortality and vertical transmission in humans or livestock. The goal of this ambitious project is to close this gap in knowledge by studying the mechanisms involved in the early abortion during the acute phase of toxoplasmosis in a standardised animal model relevant for humans and livestock. We hypothesise that by using a pregnant sheep model, the molecular mechanisms underlying the parasite-induced inflammation associated with early abortions can be identified. To this end, we will first characterize the early infection dynamics, lesions, parasite burden and peripheral immune response in the dams. This will provide valuable information as to the initial immune response elicited by the parasite and how it reaches the placenta. Subsequently, we will investigate the local molecular mechanisms involved in the parasite-induced pathogenesis of early abortions by combining novel immunohistopathological and transcriptomic approaches in order to identify alterations of gene expression and biological pathways in the materno-foetal interface. The results derived from this proposal will significantly advance the understanding of the mechanisms of Toxoplasma early abortions and help in the design of transmission-blocking vaccines or drugs. Because Toxoplasma has been associated with women who had spontaneous abortions, it is likely that these mechanisms are shared with humans. Thus, these results will not only produce economic savings in the livestock industry but will also directly improve human health.

Acronym: 

OCTOPUS

Title: 

Oncological Concurrent Tomographic Optoacoustics, Pet and UltraSonography

Objective:

Cancer is the second leading cause of death globally. Noninvasive imaging of tumor hallmarks helps to combat cancer more efficiently. However, cancer is a complex disease and modern imaging of cancer should evolve to help exploring the interaction between different cancer hallmarks and to predict the evolution of some of them in relation to others. Besides, these new techniques should provide answers to the present unmet need for determining, precisely, how, which and when targeted therapeutic agents can be used for optimized efficacy. In this project we will build a new hybrid cancer imaging device: OCTOPUS (Oncological Concurrent Tomographic Optoacoustics, PET and UltraSonography), that will pioneer the intersection of molecular, vascular and tissue oxygenation information, three major hallmarks of cancer. OCTOPUS is a timely action to study tumor dynamics with a hybrid hallmark perspective in a longitudinal, simultaneous, quantitative, fully co-registered and in vivo manner. To reach this goal, I will develop cutting-edges technologies regarding multispectral tomographic optoacoustic using an arrangement of 3D ultrasound arrays, combined with actual 3D sequences of Ultrafast Ultrasound and a custom-made PET system for data acquisition and reconstruction. A deep learning framework will be created for advanced multiparametric analysis of OCTOPUS derived data to facilitate the interpretation of intra-tumoral processes in order to improve high-precision image-guided treatment and ultimately to guide in the design of targeted therapies.

Acronym: 

HoloWS

Title: 

Large-field-of-view large-size 3D holographic displays using wave-front shaping of multiple light scattering fields

Objective:

Holographic display is considered the holy-grail of three-dimensional (3D) auto-stereo displays because it generates arbitrary wavefronts providing imagery with all the 3D visual cues. However, the information content of a hologram with a large optical extent (the product of area and field-of-view) is much greater than the display capabilities of current spatial light modulators (SLMs) due to these SLM’s low space bandwidth product (a small diffraction angle range and limited pixel number) limiting the viewing angle and size of a displayed 3D holographic image. Therefore, the SLM’s low display capabilities hinder the realization of dynamic 3D displays of holograms with a large optical extent. Here, the HoloWS project will develop a novel holographic display method based on wave-front shaping of multiple light scattering fields to augment both limited viewing angle and image size at the same time, without the aforementioned drawbacks. Using a volumetric light scattering field, generated by highly disordered turbid media mediums, in conjunction with actively controlled wavefront shaping, the HoloWS project will display dynamic holograms with significantly increased viewing angle and image size at the same time. As a result, the viewing angle and the image size are enhanced compared with the case of using the SLM only to solve the inherent trade-off between the display size and visual angle.

Acronym: 

SciRepMod

Title: 

The Roles of Modalities in Scientific Representation

Objective:

Modal discourse (about what is possible or necessary) is ubiquitous in science but it is not always easy to identify which kind of necessity (epistemic, natural, conceptual, ...) is involved in a piece of scientific reasoning. This difficulty is a source of debate not only among philosophers, but also among physicists, for example concerning the interpretation of probabilities in quantum mechanics. The aim of the project is to circumvent this problem by examining the representational status of various kinds of modalities: whether they are represented, or whether they play a role in the act of representing, for example, in assessing the credibility of a model. The purpose is to arrive at a means of distinguishing different kinds of modalities pragmatically, so as to provide tools for interpreting the modal aspect of scientific theories and scientific discourse more precisely. The project will focus on a case-study: non-relativistic quantum mechanics, because it offers a rich modal structure (possible states, observables, outcomes, model-parameters) with divergent interpretations. It will consist in developing a plausible ccount of the representational status of various kinds of modalities, with help from the competence of the host institution on the topics of scientific representation and the philosophy of probabilities, and applying this account to the case study by examining how various modal structures constrain, license or warrant inferences based on quantum mechanical models. It will take into account different scientific aims and activities (explaining, predicting, developing technologies). The project could be useful to scientists, by helping them to have a clear view of the concepts involved when they employ modal discourse. It could inform the way scientific theories are to be interpreted, in particular quantum mechanics. Finally, it could inform debates on the nature of scientific representation and on the relations between various kinds of modalities.

Acronym: 

ActBioPol

Title: 

Computational Modeling of Active Polymers: Generic Multi-Scale Coarse-Grained Approach for Outof-Equilibrium Biophysical and Bio-inspired Systems

Objective:

The research project ActBioPol aims at defining a novel theoretical framework for polymeric materials, powered by active elements: examples of such materials are of relevance for cell biology, physiology as well for materials science applications. We will first introduce and characterise a generic and versatile coarse-grained model, that takes inspiration from real world systems and that features realistic hydrodynamic interactions (HIs). We will test the performance of the framework by studying the rheological properties of suspensions of active polymers, comparing the results with recent experiments. We will further model two systems, active networks and a brush of active cilia. In the former case, we will investigate the elastic properties of polymeric networks, powered by randomly disposed active elements. We aim to characterize the system for future applications in materials science. In the case of active cilia we aim to study, in a coarse-grained fashion, the mechanism of fluid transport, aiming to identify the mechanisms that hinder such transport and to suggest pathways to restore optimal conditions.

Complutense University of Madrid
European Office
HRS4R
MSCA