Natalia Zawotna joins the WELCOME2 team and takes the position of a PhD student is Prof. Carsten Carlberg’s nutrigenomics group.
What is the focus of your research?
The scientific experiences that I have gained thus far, coupled with my interest in genetics, have inspired me to explore epigenetics. It is marvelous that, despite the same linear sequence, genes can have a variety of expression profiles and influence chromatin structure. I am tremendously fascinated by how the enormous genetic world functions inside the minute cell nucleus and how epigenetic changes affect the entire organism.
What organizations/institutions have your studied or worked in?
I graduated from the University of Warmia and Mazury, here in Olsztyn, where I finished two faculties at the same time. First, Chemical and Process Engineering, and the second Medical Biology. After that, I completed my master’s degree in molecular biology at the University of Warsaw. I also took part in the Erasmus Program twice, visiting Czech Republic and Spain. From the beginning of my studes, I was working on scientific projects from the National Science Centre (NCN) and Foundation for Polish Science (FNP) with the epigenetics background and I knew that this is the field I want to focus on. After my master’s degree, I got the Fulbright Biolab scholarship and spent 2 years at the University of Virginia, USA, studying nuclear factors required for maintaining genome stability and exploring the role of SIRT6 in human lung cancer. Then, I spent one year working in a genetics company. Now, I have joined to WELCOME2 group, at the Centre of Excellence in Nutrigenomics which conducts cutting-edge research in this field.
What do you consider the greatest achievement in your career so far?
I have learned a lot in every place I was working in, but getting the Biolab internship at the University of Virginia, USA was one of the greatest and most crucial achievements of mine. I was familiarized with and conducted first-rate research from my area of interest using sequencing-based methods like Hi-C, RNA-, ATAC-, and ChIP-seq to study gene regulation and chromatin structure. This research experience coupled with the challenge and opportunity to work among diverse scientific environments helped me become a more confident, self-aware and open-minded scientist.
What was your motivation to join WELCOME2 team?
Genetics is something I have been dealing with for the last couple of years and nutrigenomics is a relatively new discipline. WELCOME2 in Poland is a flagship group studying nutrigenomics. Prof. Carlberg is a world-class scientist in the nutrigenomics field and an extraordinary mentor. For a young scientist like me, it is essential to have a more experienced mentor who advises, helps, and supports me in my research career. It is a great honor for me to be a member of this project and be trained under a world-renowned scientist like prof. Carlberg. Additionally, the Institute recently got the highest A+ category in the ministrial evaluaton of research and academic organisations in Poland, proving its leading position in the field of food technology and nutrition. The WELCOME2 project thus combines everything that is important to me, a great scientific environment with state-of-the-art research under a top-class scientist and great mentor.
What are your research goals to pursue in the near future?
In the WELCOME2 group under prof. Carlberg supervision I’ll do my PhD project, which is essential to me. During PhD I would like to continue developing my critical thinking skills and the ability to design experiments and test hypotheses. My future goals are to not only to take part in all research in the WELCOME2-related projects, but also to apply for my own grants and funding. Being a member of WELCOME2 in one of the best research centers in Poland without any doubt creates an outstanding environment to achieve my goals.
What are your outside of work interests?
In my free time, I enjoy sailing as an instructor at Polish Yachting Association. However, in general, I like sports, so every day I try to schedule some biking, swimming, or playing squash. For almost 10 years I have been a member of the Academic Tourist Club at the University of Warmia and Mazury here in Olsztyn, so I travel a lot with them and really enjoy doing it.