16 November 2023 – After his PhD research on the role of viral infection on the development of type 2 diabetes at the University of Rijeka in Croatia, Marko Šestan went to Portugal, where he studied interactions between the nervous and immune systems, and the effects on endocrine function funded by an EMBO Postdoctoral Fellowship. His work revealed details of how, during fasting, cells migrating from the gut to the pancreas trigger hormone production to maintain glucose levels. “I am thankful to EMBO for such an excellent opportunity. I was able to meet many interesting people and learn a lot of important techniques,” he says.
Šestan is now back at the University of Rijeka, where he has a teaching position at the faculty of medicine. He is also working on securing funding for his own research group. “Disease and homeostasis pathways work across multiple organs and systems in the body. I want to combine my knowledge and make my own niche looking at how viral infections affect the immune system and endocrine function,” Šestan explains.
He admits the funding situation within Croatia is difficult: “Government investment in science is still relatively low, which means we are still not very competitive on the European stage.” The problem is acknowledged, says Šestan, and the situation improving. The Croatian government has plans to increase investment and to attract more international scientists, and EU funding bodies such as the ERC are planning funding calls specifically for Eastern Europe. “We are hopeful!” says Šestan. Of his home country Šestan says it is a beautiful place, and also that people are open for new experiences and encounters: “You should definitely visit Croatia!”