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The Seal of Excellence

24.4.2017 – The Commission awarded, for the first time, Seal of Excellence certificates to more than 2300 researchers in recognition of their high-quality research proposals under the Marie-Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). These are being awarded to all researchers whose 2016 MSCA Individual Fellowship proposals reached a score of 85% or above but could not be funded due to the highly-competitive nature of the MSCA programme. This endorsement provides applicants with recognition for the quality of their work, which they can use to further develop their careers and to support their search for alternative funding at regional or national level. Cyprus and the Czech Republic have drawn on the European Social Fund to introduce funding schemes in support of recipients of the Seal. Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, Tibor Navracsics, said: “I am delighted to award Seals of Excellence to more than 2300 leading researchers who just missed out on funding for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships in 2016. I very much welcome the initiatives of Cyprus and the Czech Republic to introduce new funding schemes for these excellent scientists and I would strongly encourage other countries to do the same.” Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, said: “I am pleased to welcome MSCA applicants into the Seal of Excellence community. The Seal of Excellence is a simple concept with a big impact. This quality label can help individual researchers find funding for their project.” National funding bodies in Croatia, Slovenia and Poland also have initiatives in the pipeline. Some other countries have opted not to introduce a specific funding scheme but are instead encouraging recipients of the Seal to apply to existing schemes. For further information, including national funding initiatives, please see here. For information on MSCA see factsheet. Among recievers is also a Slovenien researcher Andrej Ondracka.

Background

Born and educated in Slovenia, Andrej obtained his PhD in cell biology and molecular genetics from Rockefeller University in New York City in 2015. After his PhD, he became interested in evolution, and is currently pursuing his postdoctoral studies at the Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona, and has just obtained the MSCA fellowship to continue working on this project for two more years. In his free time, Andrej has traveled extensively around the world, and he enjoys playing beachvolley on summer evenings after work.

Origins of complex life …revealed?

How exactly did animals evolve from single-cell organisms into complex creatures capable of social interaction, language and even technological prowess? This is not just a matter of scientific curiosity, but a fundamental biological question about what underpins life itself. Through an EU-funded Marie Skłodowska-Curie individual fellowship, Slovenian scientist Andrej Ondracka aims to fill some of the gaps in our understanding. To do this, he is focusing on the role of genome regulation, a hallmark of all animals. This process plays a crucial role in determining different cell types, and is fundamental to creating complex life.What Ondracka wants to know is this: were genome regulatory mechanisms already present in our unicellular ancestors? And if not, how on earth did they come about? To seek answers, Ondracka is going to Spain to study one of the closest unicellular relatives of animals, a Creolimax fragrantissima. This single-cell organism can easily be grown in the lab, and will help Ondracka develop genome editing tools that enable him to delve into our ancient past. His data will provide fascinating and perhaps significant insights into the nature of the regulatory genome within the very last unicellular ancestor of animals.

 

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