8 January 2022 – An EMBO Scientific Exchange Grant enabled Nazlı Ecem Dal-Bekar to expand her academic and social horizons by spending three months in the group of Agnieszka Siomek-Górecka at Nicolas Copernicus University in Bydgoszcz, Poland in 2019. “It was a fantastic experience and gave me direct access to amazing chromatography and mass spectrometry facilities, where I was able to develop new methods and use existing techniques to verify and validate my research,” says Dal-Bekar, who is a PhD student at the Institute of Health Sciences at Dokuz Eylul University, Izmir.
Dal-Bekar’s work focuses on the role of vitamin D and its molecular pathways in scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease that causes hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues, but whose underlying causes are largely unknown. “Vitamin D is really important in many areas such as metabolism, immune system, and antioxidant capacity,” she explains. “But vitamin D deficiency has been linked to several autoimmune disorders, including scleroderma. There are many unanswered questions, and there are many important avenues to explore.
Making connections with researchers across the international science community is a motivation for her. “At the moment Turkey is underrepresented in basic life science research, but there is a lot of potential and I hope to see opportunities for fundamental life scientists grow in future. I met Agnieska whilst networking at an international biochemistry conference: there are some great opportunities out there if you are open to them. I am just at the beginning of my academic journey, but we never stop asking questions and dreaming about what we can achieve.”