Scientia Fellows profil: excellent research and career development
Denis Reis de Assis is developing leadership skills while immersing himself in his research project at NORMENT, a Centre of Excellence (CoE). His project aims to find answers to why some people develop severe mental illness.
Denis Reis de Assis. Photo: UiO
Denis Reis de Assis is part of the Scientia Fellow programme, having arrived in Norway on the 31st of January 2020, a few weeks before the country went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 virus. Here you can read about his experience of coming to Norway and joining the Scientia Fellows programme, in addition to his research interests and ambitions for the coming years.
What made you apply to the Scientia Fellows programme?
I learned about the Scientia Fellows Programme through a call at a scientific jobs’ website. After reading the announcement, I looked for further information about the project and research group of interest and found that it was exactly what I was looking for. Then I tried to figure out what it would be like working at UiO and living in Oslo. I checked and saw that the university has a good international reputation. Moreover, Norway is an excellent country to live in, and the salary was good as well. After analysing all those criteria, I decided to apply.
Do you have any recommendations to those who might consider applying?
First check if there is any vacancy in your area of interest and contact the project leader. Then you can write an interesting project together. Another thing I want to say is that it is important that you look for a project you really like, one that involves techniques and skills that you want to learn in order to reach your future professional goals.
The Scientia Fellows programme does not only focus on publications, it is also designed to provide training in whichever field the fellow needs to develop. Hence the programme includes good courses for career development, leadership, grants writing, and mentoring.
Were you able to continue working during the COVID lockdown? How?
Since the COVID lockdown I have worked on a review paper my supervisor was invited to write. This came at just the right time for me. Writing a review paper at the beginning of a new project is always a good idea, since it is necessary to acquire knowledge about the new topic. However, I was not allowed to start my project until UiO declared an end to the lockdown in May.
What have you learned so far as a Scientia fellow and what do you think your colleagues have learned from you?
So far, the main lesson for me is that a postdoc is a transition period where it is important to find out what career path you want to follow in the coming years and what skills are necessary to reach your goals. Then during the 3 years of postdoc studies, besides producing data and publishing, you have enough time to develop the identified skills and find the desired position. I believe I am contributing to my research group with knowledge about brain energy metabolism and cell cultures and ideas stemming from projects in the field of mental disorders. I am also starting my role as a supervisor in the Biomarkers Lab (Lag Liv Lab), where I will develop my supervision skills and help undergraduate students from several courses develop innovative projects in the interface of physics and other exact sciences such as biology and medicine.
What is your research focus?
My research focus is investigating the pathological mechanisms that underly mental disorders, especially schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, using induced pluripotent stem cells derived from patients and differentiated into brain cells and cerebral organoids. I have a particular interest in studying the energy metabolism and mitochondrial function in those cellular models, as well as the correlation between energy metabolism and electrophysiological function.
What do you expect to achieve in the coming years?
I anticipate being able to participate in the submission of two articles to be hopefully published during the first half of 2021. I have also just completed a course in leadership and will have the opportunity to provide academic supervision to bachelor’s students in order to practice and strengthen my skills in management and academic supervision. The programme also offers other courses such as grants writing, which I also intend to participate in. Through this I expect I will become much better prepared for the next step in my career at the end of the programme.
How will your research benefit your field of expertise, health professionals, patients, and others?
My research will benefit my field of expertise, which is neuroscience, by allowing me to publish high level papers in the field, gain experience with iPS cells, and improve my expertise in brain energy metabolism, the field in which I did my master’s and PhD.
I believe in ten years’ time I will be working with projects involving iPS cells and energy metabolism, which are the topics in which I am currently developing skills. I am not sure, however, if I will be working with this research in academia, industry, or perhaps even my own company.