Meet FEMS Research and Training grantee Ivana Aleksic

25-01-23 Eleni Koursari

Research and Training Grants are meant to assist early career scientists in pursuing research and training at a European host institution in another country than their own country of residence.

Ivana Aleksic: University of Belgrade, Institute of Molecular Genetics and Genetic Engineering – microbiology, Belgrade, Serbia

Host supervisor and host laboratory: Dr. Jose Jimenez, Faculty of Natural Science, Imperial College London, UK

Dates:  January 2022 to 7 April 2022

FEMS Member Society Membership: Serbian Society for Microbiology


I am a postdoc at Institute of Molecular genetics and genetic engineering, working in Laboratory for microbial molecular genetics and ecology in group for eco-biotechnology and drug development. I have been working at the same laboratory from 2013. when I started my scientific journey as a student volunteer, after did my master thesis there and my PhD studies. In November 2019. I finished my PhD studies and continued working on different scientific topics. Up to the end of my PhD studies I have been working on Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum sensing and antimicrobial potential of natural and chemically synthesized compounds. Now my scientific interest is focused on ecology and bioremediation and the usage of microorganisms to help solving some of the problems of plastic pollution.

Plastic is a valuable material that is used daily and has many applications, but due to excessive and inadequate use, plastic has become a major polluter of the environment. Currently there are several methods in use for disposing plastic waste, such as landfilling, incineration and mechanical and chemical recycling but interesting fact is that currently only 9 to 12% of the global plastic waste is recycled while the rest is discarded into landfills or the natural environment. There is a great need for exploring innovative recycling methods which are safe for the environment. It has been shown that plastic materials can be degraded and metabolized by some microorganisms, by now a large number of microorganisms capable of degrading polyethylene (PE) have been discovered, and many research have been dedicated to attempts to degrade plastic with microorganisms. Numerous studies have yet demonstrated the ability of different bacterial strains to degrade polymers, but not so many did investigate the usage of pathogenic strains, genetically modified to produce specific enzymes, as a plastic degrading tool in a form of biofilms. Biofilms of three Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical strains and P. stenotrophomonas and their LCC conjugants were tested for its ability to degrade four types of plastic materials. This study showed the potential of microbial biofilms of genetically modified bacteria to disturb the texture of plastic materials. With the tools of bioengineering and bacterial nature ability to produce biofilms it’s possible to develop promising strategies to help solving plastic pollution problem.

FEMS grant offers great opportunities for young scientists to explore some new working environment and to learn new methods and to meet new people. Those were the main reasons I applied for a FEMS Research and Training Grant and the whole experience was very useful. In just three months I have managed to learn a lot and to make a great progress in my career.

I wanted to learn new methodology and to explore some new work environment. I have succeeded and managed to learn a lot of new techniques and met scientists with the similar scientific interests. The FEMS Research and Training Grant allowed me to work with foreign scientists, and because of the successful project outcomes future collaboration have been established. Opportunity to continue working on this project with new collaborators will empower me to write some project proposals for additional work on microbial plastic degradation.’’

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