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Seven UAB lecturers receive ICREA Academy grants

08 Mar 2023
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The Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) awarded a total of 40 ICREA Academy grants to academic staff of the Catalan universities system in 2022, seven of which went to lecturers from the UAB.

Cartell sobre els juts ICREA / cartel sobre las ayudas ICREA

Through the ICREA Academy grants the Department of Research and Universities of the Government of Catalonia promotes research by teaching staff of any one of the Catalan public universities, with the overall aim of improving the impact of research carried out by the universities of Catalonia. The selected teaching staff will receive the sum of €40,000 euros annually over a period of five years. These grants are aimed exclusively at university academic staff carrying out teaching activities and who are fully active and in an expansionist phase of their own research.

The UAB lecturers who received the grant are:

Albert QuintanaAlbert Quintana. Coordinator of the Research Group in Mitochondrial Neuropathology at the UAB Institute of Neurosciences who is working on research into a group of minority diseases produced by malfunctioning of the mitochondria with the objective of finding new treatments which can prolong and improve the quality of life of those people suffering from the condition. This research has also opened up other new lines related to antibiotic resistance. The ICREA Academy grant will enable him to boost his research work and speed up the results.  

Albert Quitana graduated in Biology in 2001 and obtained a PhD in Neuroscience in 2007, both from the UAB. During his doctoral studies he focussed on the role of cytokines in the development of neuropathology and neuroinflammation in traumatic brain injury. He spent his postdoctoral phase in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Palmiter of the University of Washington  in Seattle, where he was principal investigator for the development and characterization of a mouse model for mitochondrial disease (Leigh syndrome). In 2013 he was made  Assistant Professor in the Department of Paediatrics of the University of Washington and head of the group at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute. In 2015 he returned to Barcelona as a Ramón y Cajal researcher with an ERC Starting Grant.

Xavier PonsXavier Pons. Professor of geography at the UAB, he directs the Grumets research group which is dedicated to Geographical Information Science. Also a trained biologist, his main work centres on radiometric and geometric corrections of satellite and UAV imagery, mapping and dynamics of land cover and ecological parameters, and on the development of geographical information systems for both infrastructures and standards for geoservices, and software programming (e.g. the MiraMon system launched in 1994, which now has over 200,000 users). He has also worked on climatic modelling, forest fires and drought using satellite image time series.

Xavier Pons will address land cover change through new paradigms and processing and remote sensing analysis. His activity will be centred on remote sensing methods, on the one hand: synergies of drone and satellite imaging to improve radiometric interpretation, the capture and processing of images, solutions for the remote sensing signal processing in areas of shade, and the exploration of a new paradigm for capturing images that could change the design of current sensors. On the other hand, he will explore new paradigms for analysing the data of map time series. Among other improvements, Xavier Pons proposes the use of a time link for better machine learning results. This would not only be of academic benefit but would also have an impact on policies and, ultimately, on society. 

Sergi VidalSergi Vidal. Social demographer and associate lecturer in the Department of Sociology of the UAB and researcher at the Centre for Demographic Studies, where he coordinates the research team in Generations and Life Course. he has spent periods at the universities of Bremen, Queensland and Melbourne, among others. He has been principal investigator for different project with competitive funding, including a ERC Consolidator Grant which began recently. He currently coordinates the scientific panel on  Lifetime Migration of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP), and is an affiliated researcher at the Life Course centre of excellence of the Australian Research Council, and the German Federal Institute for Population Research.

His research interests include geographical mobility, family demography, social inequalities, and longitudinal quantitative analysis methods. He has recently focussed his research on the study of geographical mobility (and sedentarism) as a lifelong process, to try to establish the point to which, how and for whom geographical mobility is associated with the accumulation of advantages or disadvantages during the life course in contexts of growing instability for family and employment paths.

Raquel PiquéRaquel Piqué. PhD in History from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, she has spent research periods at the Centro Austral de Investigaciones Cientificas (Argentina), the Escuela Superior Politécnica del Litoral (Ecuador), the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow and Landscape Research (Switzerland), the University of Berkeley (USA) and the University of Goteborg (Sweden). She is current Professor in the Department of Prehistory of the UAB.

Her main area of research is the archaeology of the last hunter-gatherers and the first agricultural societies. She is a pioneer in archaeobotanical studies and has carried out research into botanical knowledge and technological developments related to the use of plants in the prehistorical period. Within this field her experimental and ethnoarchaeological focus  merit special mention. Since 2008 she has co-directed the Draga archaeological project, the research for which has contributed to the international projection of this site, which is unique in Europe, and has enabled innovative lines of research in the field of archaeobotany to be carried out.

David ReverterDavid Reverter. His research group is interested in the molecular mechanisms behind protein structures. Using protein crystallography and electronic cryo-microscopy complex protein structures can be resolved at the atomic level. The main research includes the post-translational modification path for proteins by ubiquitination/SUMOlyation, which has a very important role in the regulation of many cellular processes and is involved in the development of many pathologies.

David Reverter studied a degree in Biology and obtained his PhD from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of the UAB. He later undertook two post-doctoral periods, one for three years at the Max Planck Institute in Munich (Germany) and another for five years at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York (USA). On his return he set up his research group at the Institute of Biotechnology and Biomedicine of the UAB, where he combines research with teaching as an associate lecturer of the Department of Biochemistry and molecular Biology of the UAB.

Alba HernándezAlba Hernández Bonilla. Her main research interest in the study of effects induced by environmental contaminants in scenarios of chronic exposure, with a special focus on particulate matter, such as nano materials, microplastics and nanoplastics. She seeks to generate knowledge for a better understanding of the risks that these environmental contaminants post for health, in order that they may be used to design measures for their control and for the protection of people and the environment.  

Alba Hernández graduated in Biology from the UAB where she is currently a associate lecturer and researcher in the Mutagenesis Group of the Department of Genetics and Microbiology. She obtained her PhD from the same university with a study of how human genetic variability influences the way contamination affects us. She continued her postdoctoral training in the prestigious National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute (USA) and at the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (Mexico). To date she has supervised 16 doctoral theses, published more than 70 articles and has participated in more than 20 projects related to the area of toxicology. She is currently leading the national NAMs-WATER project “Innovative New Approach Methodologies (NAMs) for the human health hazard assessment of emerging contaminants present in wasteWATER” and the European PLASTICHEAL project “Innovative tools to study the impact and mode of action of micro & nanoplastics on human health: towards a knowledge base for risk assessment”.

Neus VidalNeus Vidal Barrantes. She combined research and clinical training. She obtained a PhD (Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award) in Psychology at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and a MSc at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, becoming a Licensed Specialist in Clinical Psychology. She was a visiting predoctoral researcher in the University of Oxford and held an Adjunct Associate Professorship at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (USA). She is Professor at the Department of Clinical Psychology of UAB, where she coordinates the Research Group “Person-Environment Interaction in Risk and Resilience in Mental Health” (SGR). She has been a member of the Advisory Board of the Spanish Agency for the Assessment of Scientific Research and has served as a research consultant for mental health centers. Her interests are the nature and origins of mental disorders as well as positive and adaptive psychological features such as psychological sensitivity and creativity.

Her research programme focuses on studying how the interaction of genes, psychosocial environmental factors, and personal characteristics shape risk and resilience in mental health. This research challenges the dogma that mental disorders are gene-based brain illnesses and tests the hypothesis that the genetics of mental disorders are largely the genetics of sensitivity to the psychosocial environment. Her research examines individual differences in sensitivity from a genetic and psychological perspective, and considers whether the interaction of sensitivity with both adverse and protective environments impacts mental suffering as well as positive features such as wellbeing. Most research has focused on negative environments and poor outcomes. The dimensional approach ranges from personality traits to clinical disorders, and includes positive outcomes such as creativity. Mobile technologies are used to enhance ecological validity, to map person-context interactions and their impact on the dynamic expression of mental suffering and wellbeing. This work has clinical applications, since understanding real-life trait/symptom variation and its internal and situational determinants is critical for improving diagnoses and tailoring individualized treatments. Validation of this framework would challenge the current concept of mental disorders, the pessimistic view of ‘vulnerability’ or ‘at risk’ status, and their associated social stigma. It offers empirical evidence for implementing positive psychology interventions in clinical and community settings.