Science and Technology

Técnico researcher receives ‘la Caixa’ Foundation doctoral fellowship to study osteoarthritis

Kristin Schüler is a researcher at the Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences (iBB) and has been involved in iBB’s activities since 2021.

Kristin Schüler’s academic and professional life has made her travel a lot. The researcher at the Institute for Bioengineering and Biosciences (iBB), a research unit at the Instituto Superior Técnico, has travelled to countries such as Germany, Mexico, France, Japan, Spain, Poland and China. However, the INPhINIT doctoral fellowship she has just received from ‘la Caixa’ Foundation will allow her to extend her stay at Técnico for three years, developing her osteoarthritis research.

One of five young researchers studying in Portugal to receive this fellowship (out of a total of 65 in the Iberian Peninsula), Kristin Schüler is working on a PhD project at iBB to develop a new model for monitoring drugs in cartilage in-vitro. The researcher aims to analyse the mechanisms behind osteoarthritis, to create new therapies. The project includes the development of new biomaterials, bioprinting, stem cell cultures and different microscopy techniques and analysis methods.

Until 2019, she worked as an engineer in industry. Since then, she has studied areas such as Biomedical Engineering, specialising in artificial organs and Regenerative Medicine, and Biomaterials and their medical applications. In the summer of 2021, on the occasion of an Erasmus internship, she had the opportunity to attend a semester at Técnico. “Compared to Germany”, the researcher felt that “more group work was required and that the presentation skills of [her] Portuguese colleagues were amazing”.

She is currently a member of iBB’s Stem Cell Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Research Group (SCERG). “I believe that my comprehensive background – with professional experiences in various countries and fields such as industry and research – was crucial in enabling me to become the young researcher I am today”, explains the PhD student.

As a ‘la Caixa’ fellowship holder, Kristin Schüler now has the opportunity to participate in annual meetings with other fellows, which will allow them to share experiences in their respective fields. After attending the first one, she says she has already learnt about projects in Life Sciences, Theoretical Physics, Literature and Law. In addition to these meetings, the fellowship also includes advanced training events and individual professional counselling sessions. “Networking and personal development activities will be decisive for our career progression and for consolidating ourselves as researchers”, she says.

The INPhINIT fellowship is dedicated to early-career doctoral researchers, who wish to pursue a doctorate in a STEM discipline at research centres of excellence in Portugal or Spain.