Meet FEMS Research and Training grantee Klara Filek

28-04-21 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.

Klara Filek: Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia

Host supervisor and host laboratory: Prof. Wim Vyverman, Protistology and Aquatic Ecology group, Ghent University, Belgium

Dates: 07 October – 23 December 2020

FEMS Member Society Membership: Croatian Microbiological Society


Currently, I am a PhD student at the Faculty of Science (University of Zagreb, Croatia) working on describing diatoms and bacteria associated with loggerhead sea turtles. Prior to my PhD studies I acquired an MSc degree in biology from Uppsala University in Sweden where I developed a keen interest in studying bacteria and how they interact with each other and possibly other microbes. In contrast to the work during my Master thesis research which was based on E. coli in the lab, my PhD project focuses on microbial communities from a highly peculiar habitat of sea turtle hosts. Furthermore, instead of focusing solely on the turtle host, I also study turtle-associated diatoms which take on the role of a microbe on a host and a host itself, as diatoms can be hosts for bacteria as well. I am interested in revealing the microbial communities associated both with the macro- and micro-hosts, turtles and diatoms, respectively. Besides the main aspects of my PhD project I am also interested in infectious diseases from a pathogen’s perspective, microbiomes, and better ways to study and infer conclusions from ever-increasing amounts of data gathered by the newest sequencing technologies.

For my research I visited the Protistology and Aquatic Ecology lab at Ghent University. This visit has enabled me to use technologies and gain better knowledge in collecting and analysing data crucial for my PhD project. In spite of the coronavirus restrictions, I have managed to proceed with my research in ways that wouldn’t be possible if not for the grant as my home institution has been badly damaged in the earthquakes that hit Zagreb (Croatia) in March 2020. I applied for the FEMS Research and Training grant to be able to collaborate with leading scientists in the field of my PhD research and improve on my own research as my home institution was limited in providing specific machines and expertise that I needed. I wanted to learn how to use new technologies and do research that has become impossible at my home institution. At the time of application I just wanted to establish collaborations and gain knowledge to improve on my research, but after the Zagreb earthquake that has heavily damaged my lab I was in dire need for a properly equipped lab and expertise to save and continue the research for my PhD. The FEMS Research and Training grant provided me with the opportunity to learn from and collaborate with the top scientists in my field. Additional unexpected benefit of the grant was that it provided me with an opportunity to continue my research in a safe environment after my home institution was heavily damaged in an earthquake.

I think FEMS is doing a great job with the free webinars and I would love to see that continue. I was a teaching assistant for an undergraduate course in microbial ecology and your resources proved wonderful to better the understanding of microbial dynamics and increase curiosity in my students. Grants and awards also seem to be doing a great job in helping to boost collaboration and exchange of scientific ideas.’

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