This post is part of a blog series with Young Scientists ahead of the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2015, which takes place in Dalian, China, from 9-11 September. Ivana Gadjanski is an assistant professor at the R&D Center for Bioengineering (BioIRC), Belgrade Metropolitan University. In this blog, Gadjanski discusses entrepreneurship in STEM and her own research on tissue engineering.
How has moving from the US to Serbia changed your approach to research?
In the United States, the main approach tends to be “less theory, more practice”, while in Europe (I have also worked in Germany and Sweden), I have noticed much more of a focus on the theoretical aspect. Being exposed to both has allowed me to work out my own style, which has been to vary the ratio depending on the topic. In the US I learned to appreciate how commercial considerations are essential in helping the sustainability of basic research, and how to think in the direction of technology transfer and entrepreneurship. I think European scientists can learn from the way their American counterparts develop business skills quite early in their careers.
Since Fab Labs began, what impression do you have of public-private collaboration on research and innovation?
We all recognize that public-private partnership for innovation and research is necessary, but very often, public labs that are well-funded by governments remain too removed from the actual implementation of the research findings. By contrast, privately held companies (say, for example, in the biotech sector) working on cutting-edge findings with a high technology readiness level have to do intensive fundraising in order to survive. A solution might be for governments to start collaborating with the companies more (start-ups, spin-offs, spin-outs), both financially and in terms of infrastructure. This would also mean that public universities and science-based institutions would be better able to acknowledge and reward researchers who participate in technology transfer.
What is the most exciting thing you are working on right now?
There are actually two things. In the Center for Bioengineering, or BioIRC, we are working on blood-vessel engineering for tissue vascularization. I hope to merge this work with the osteochondral (bone and cartilage) engineering I did in the US. Vascularization is the process of blood-vessel formation and is crucial in all areas of tissue engineering, including 3D organ bioprinting. In the Fab Initiative, which I founded, we are working on establishing the first educational Fab Lab in Serbia, and collaborating with others to grow the Fab network in south-east Europe. This is extremely exciting for me as it has allowed me to pursue my passions outside of the research world.
Away from your own research, what areas of science give you most hope for positive change in the world?
I have always been impressed with physics and mathematics: they can help us gather the data we need to address the world’s biggest issues, such as climate change and our options as a human race. I can’t imagine any line of modern-day research that does not include engineering and computer science. But I wouldn’t limit hopes for a better world to STEM subjects. Ethics, law and philosophy are all needed more than ever, to keep this amazing technological progress moving forward. Stem cells, regenerative medicine, artificial intelligence – they all bring new ethical and moral issues, and we need multidisciplinary skills to tackle them. We also need art and culture, in order to see crude data from a different perspective. This is why I like organizations like Global Young Academy, of which I am a member, that gather young professionals from very different fields engaging them on various topics for the benefit of the society. As the World Economic does as well.
If you could make one thing happen in the world of science and technology, what would it be?
I would expose more people to science and technology. In fact, I’d have everyone in the world own a 3D printer and a smartphone or laptop with internet access. It’s amazing how technology can improve learning, widen access to knowledge and help ordinary people (not just highly trained professionals) make things that can solve their real-life problems. I would also remove all the paywalls to knowledge, enabling open access to all the world’s research articles. It’s high time science became truly open.
Author: Ivana Gadjanski is Associate Professor at the R&D Center for Bioengineering (BioIRC), Belgrade Metropolitan University and a World Economic Forum Young Scientist. She will be participating at the Forum’s Annual Meeting of the New Champions, which is taking place in Dalian, China, 9-11 September.
Image: Research assistant Georgina Bowyer works on a vaccine for Ebola at The Jenner Institute in Oxford, southern England January 16, 2015. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh