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Scientists get three more prestigious Studentships ERC for Portugal

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded three Studentships Starting Grants for Portuguese research. Two Portuguese scientists and one Israeli, developing research in Portugal, saw their projects distinguished through the allocation of these prestigious Studentships, which fund up to 1.5 million euros each project for a period of 5 years. The results were officially communicated by the ERC last December 4th.

Vanessa Morais e Cláudio Francoboth FCT Researchers, develop their research projects at the Institute of Molecular Medicine of the University of Lisbon and Noam Shemesh is a researcher at the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown.

Vanessa Morais investigates the quality control and conservation of mitochondria at synapses - the junctions between nerve cells - starting from the hypothesis that synaptic mitochondria have acquired specific mechanisms to control localized stress and that the disruption of these mechanisms contributes to neurodegeneration. Her study then aims to reveal the specific molecular properties of synaptic mitochondria and provide the necessary knowledge to better understand their role in neurodegenerative diseases. Vanessa Morais says that "this Studentship Starting Grant from the ERC guarantees me the necessary resources to form my own research team, become a more autonomous researcher, dedicate myself fully to science and go further in my passion to understand and unravel the molecular mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration".

Claudio Franco

Cláudio Franco investigates the importance of polarization and movement of the cells lining the blood vessels in the formation of the hierarchical vascular network of arteries, veins, and capillaries. Given the relevance of the hierarchical structure of the vascular network in human physiology - aneurysms and diabetic retinopathies, for example, result from abnormalities in the establishment of the vascular network - this research will allow us to define the basis for the development of new therapies for diseases associated with vascular disorders. For Cláudio Franco "it is a great honor to be a beneficiary of the ERC Starting Grant, because it guarantees me the means and freedom to develop challenging research projects, with the prospect of having a lasting impact on society.

Noam Shemesh

The Studentship Starting Grant awarded to Noam Shemesh is for his contribution to a novel application of functional magnetic resonance imaging to the study of neuronal function in disease and health. The researcher will continue his work to modify the technique so that it will be possible to directly follow the activity of nerve cells. Noam Shemesh intends with this research to answer the question "how does our brain generate behavior?" by studying the relationship between behavior and the underlying neural circuitry.

In this Call, the European Research Council (ERC) distinguished 291 projects (among 2920 applications received), which equaled a total of 429 million euros of funding for scientific research in Europe. Since the start of Calls ERC, in 2007, 56 Studentships ERC grants have been awarded to researchers based in Portuguese research centers: 33 Starting Gr ants (for researchers with 2 to 7 years of post-doctoral experience); 13 Consolidator Grants (for researchers with 7 to 12 years of post-doctoral experience) and 10 Advanced Grants (for senior researchers, internationally established in their research area).

(Image credits: Institute of Molecular Medicine and Champalimaud Center for the Unknown)