Paula Pongrac
That’s me.

Hi! Welcome to Plantventurist, place where I, Paula Pongrac, venture to share my enthusiasm for plants with those interested in plant biology. The motive behind the blog came from a promise I made during my project proposal for a Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship that “I will create a blog-type webpage with regular updates on the research projects, the results obtained and my day to day experience during the mobility”. So I am keeping my promise and I hope you will find the result appealing. On the blog there will be space for both scientific narratives as well as personal reflections, but mostly I would like to communicate through photos. I hope you will enjoy the ride!

About me

My first memory of really looking around myself and seeing the beauty of plans is from primary school and this was thanks to my biology teacher. Yes, very late indeed, I do not fit in the category of people knowing what they are passionate about from very early age. In this context, and probably for several other areas, I would consider myself a late bloomer. In my secondary school I was not sure how to continue education and I was considering various studies, also Balkan languages and Latin, but somehow I ended up studying biology (Department of Biology, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia). I would not say I regret the decision, but looking back I would probably have taken another route, more into the food science. The decision I took for my diploma thesis (back then we still had diplomas, not Bsc or Msc) was one I do not regret and it was a first intentional step towards “today”. A good step, I think. I met three important representatives of organisms. First were my future PhD supervisor and other crucial co-workers (many of which I still work with today). Second was the extraordinary plant I studied (Thlaspi praecox). Third were fungi living within the roots of this plant. I did my PhD pursuing the same topic with the same people and it was an amazing journey with everything that goes along, ups and downs, good and bad days, rejections and acceptances. My first postdoc was a shared position between the University of Ljubljana and the team performing mineral element spatial distribution analyses at the Jožef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia. I worked within an FP7 EU project entitled “Support of Public and Industrial Research using Ion beam technology” (SPIRIT) for which it was my pleasure bringing plant biology researchers to use the techniques available there. That was great fun, although I do not claim I understood all the technical discussions when the machine needed attention. I had a 1.5 years long scientific brake resulting in motherhood to twins, who nowadays ask too many questions I do not know answers to and are my constant reminder of how little I know about plants. Scientifically, I continued my career on a postdoc project at the Department of Biology, Biotechnical Faculty, University of Ljubljana financed by the Slovenian Research Agency for two years, followed by an Alexander von Humboldt Research fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers at the University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany and ended up here, at The James Hutton Institute, Dundee, Scotland, UK as a Marie Curie Research Fellow. This is me and my journey. I will give details on the past scientific work and experiences acquired as the blog evolves, as I do not want to get too much into details at this point. In the meanwhile, I accept any constructive criticism, if it comes gently, in the “comments” section, where questions on project proposals and the information of actually performing mobility (especially with a family) can be posted. Please ignore any language mistakes. I am not a native English speaker and I am still struggling with expressing myself correctly and fluently…