Bobana Samardžija, University of Rijeka
My interest in mental health research spawned from my surroundings - many of my friends and family are living with various mental illnesses, so I became very sensible to these issues from a young age. Every day we are making progress in researching major mental illnesses, but we still do not know how they start or what can be done from early stages to delay its progress. To provide some insight, our lab starts from the very beginning - from cells itself and its proteins. We rely on previous genetic research to identify possible gene candidates and investigate proteins for which they encode and their possible disruption like protein aggregation. Our aims include dissecting proteins to their smallest bits to find which parts could be tipping the scale towards illness progression. Also, we are incorporating environmental factors like stress in our research to provide a bigger picture. My work mostly focuses on depression, which is highly prevalent in patients with schizophrenia, but still not talked about enough. In the future, I hope my work will bring awareness to the connection between schizophrenia (and other psychosis) and depression and how important it is to address both from early stages. On the bigger scale, I also hope research from our lab will provide more insight of specific proteins involved in major mental illnesses, thus leading towards more personalized treatment, but also more sensitive (and earlier) diagnostics. In spirit of this, I would like to emphasize how important conferences like SIRS are to the lives of people with psychosis. As an early career researcher, having an opportunity to learn from leading experts in different fields from across the globe, at one place, means a lot. Attending SIRS 2022 allowed me to meet many senior scientists, even people whose work I have read and relied on heavily in my research. But more importantly, being one of the Early Career Awardee allowed me to talk to my peers about challenges of working in academia and learn about new oportunities to learn outside of the lab.
The Early Career Award program is intended to sponsor individuals who have, through their research, teaching or clinical activities, demonstrated a professional and scientific interest in the field of schizophrenia research. You can find out more by clicking here.