Joaquim Contradanças, MSc
Despite a great passion for Zoology, I chose the Biological Engineering degree to keep open as many career opportunities as possible. I tried to make the bridge with research on Biology by exploring distinct topics and getting a hands-on sense of the daily lab work during my summer holidays.
Never missing an opportunity, I worked with Escherichia coli at IGC in a project on synonymous mutations; explored the effects of a viral infection on the aggressiveness of male fruit flies, at the University of Edinburgh; and tested different CRISPR-Cas9 systems as potential therapeutics for Friedreich’s ataxia, at the Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston. For my master’s thesis, I went to an Evolutionary Developmental Biology lab at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in Heidelberg, to study a brain region of the marine annelid Platynereis dumerilii. Overall, I got to know the real life of a scientist and learned how important it is to simultaneously enjoy the theory and the empirical work of a project.
For my PhD, I chose to explore animal behavior, embracing the exciting and very interdisciplinary field of Neuroscience. I started the International Neuroscience Doctoral Programme at the Champalimaud Foundation, supported by an FCT fellowship and, since 2020, I am a Boehringer Ingelheim Fonds PhD fellow. I am currently studying associative learning using the zebrafish larva, a tiny animal that allows me to look into neural activity across the entire brain.
Altogether, I have learned to persevere and to never let go a good opportunity. As well, I found that there is not a single path to follow to achieve our dream work. Our specific backgrounds should not be a problem, but an asset in such a multidisciplinary world.