NUI Galway is First University in Ireland to Host Human Frontier Science Program Long-Term Fellowship

Miguel Salinas-Saavedra, postdoctoral researcher, Centre for Chromosomal Biology, NUI Galway. Photo: Miguel Salinas-Saavedra
Dec 02 2020 Posted: 11:27 GMT

A Chilean researcher has been awarded a three-year long term Fellowship from the international Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) to continue his Postdoctoral research at the Centre for Chromosomal Biology in NUI Galway.

Dr Miguel Salinas-Saavedra is the first researcher to be awarded the long-term fellowship in a university in Ireland. The HFSP is a prestigious and internationally recognised organisation that funds frontier research.

HFSP’s Long-Term Fellowships are for postdoctoral scientists in biology, who will broaden their expertise by proposing a project in the life sciences which is significantly different from their previous PhD or postdoctoral work.

A total of 50 Long-Term Fellowships were awarded to the very best of the world’s young scientists who have proposed original approaches at the frontier of life science research.

Postdoctoral researcher, Miguel Salinas-Saavedra has joined the lab of Professor Uri Frank in the Centre for Chromosomal Biology at NUI Galway. Miguel’s research will focus on Evolutionary developmental Biology (Evo-Devo) using cnidarians as model organisms.

Dr Salinas-Saavedra completed a bachelors and Masters in biology at the University of Chile (Facultad de ciencias; Science campus), Chile and a PhD in zoology at the University of Florida (biology department), US. He then moved to the Centre for Chromosomal Biology at NUI Galway in 2019.

Speaking about his fellowship award, Miguel Salinas-Saavedra, said: “I feel very honoured to receive this postdoctoral fellowship award from the Human Frontier Science Program. Diversity does not usually receive recognition in a system where funding for basic science is diminishing every year. The HFSP’s support in funding high-risk research is essential to open new opportunities and inspire a diverse group of people to continue doing science in diverse research such as my own on cnidarians.

“My funded research fellowship will focus on the mechanisms of cellular dedifferentiation in regeneration. My project focuses on researching a piece of tissue that does not have stem cells but whose cells dedifferentiate following excision. We expect this to give insights into different modes of regeneration in the animal kingdom, including humans, when we compare them evolutionarily.”

Dr Salinas-Saavedra, added: “Some animals can regenerate lost organs and tissues with high efficiency. Others can regenerate a full body from small pieces of tissues. Regardless of the case, all of them use stem cells to regenerate the missing parts of their body. The cnidarian Hydractinia (marine animals such as corals and jellyfish) can regenerate any lost body part in a tissue-specific manner. I am delighted to be researching cnidarians cells using Hydractinia at Professor Uri Frank’s lab.

“Stem cells are like the babies of tissues, they need to develop their path to adulthood. This process is called cellular differentiation. Following injury, stem cells differentiate to form and regenerate the injured tissue. Under specific conditions, in some cases, the cells of adult tissue go back to baby stages by generating new stem cells. This process is called cellular dedifferentiation.”

The International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (HFSPO) announced 65 Fellowship awards to the world’s most outstanding young life scientists, chosen through rigorous international selection out of a total of 597 applications from more than 50 countries.

The HFSP fellows begin their research in a new field of biology in a laboratory in a new country, in accord with HFSPO’s aim of promoting international collaboration in life science research.

HFSP’s Fellowships enjoy an excellent reputation and offer a built-in return component. Starting in their second year of tenure, HFSP fellows can draw up plans for setting up their own independent laboratory.

Fellows can then use the remaining time of their tenure to move to the new location. By increasing the fellowship value to about $250,000 spread over three years, HFSP provides these outstanding young talents with an enhanced financial package to back their career in frontier research.

For more information about the Human Frontier Science Program, visit: | Human Frontier Science Program (


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