STEMM Profile: Maria Ikonomopoulou | Senior Research TALENTO Fellow | Head, Translational Venomics Group | IMDEA-Food Institute | Madrid | Spain

Maria Ikonomopoulou [photo: Ikonomopoulou provided]

“I always try to see the big picture, to not get sidetracked by disappointments or difficulties and to interact with positive and career-driven people, who can help me to keep on pushing my boundaries”

I am the Head of the Translational Venomics Group at IMDEA-Food Institute in Madrid, Spain and a Senior Research TALENTO Fellow (Program of excellence in research by the Madrid Government, 2019-2023). I am also a member of the Management Committee of the COST Action CA19144 EUVEN – European Venom Network (2020-2024) and dedicated to an innovative research on the pharmacological and agrochemical properties of animal venoms.

In my research I utilise interdisciplinary approaches, including molecular, cell biology, venomics and medicinal chemistry to identify, characterise and optimise novel drug candidates against cancer and aging-related diseases. I have international research experience in biology and biotechnology in Australia, Spain, Greece, Ireland, and Malaysia and have been successfully collaborating with the industry for over ten years.

To meet my research objectives, I have an established and multidisciplinary network of eminent and internationally recognized scientists. I am passionate about the therapeutic potentials of animal venoms and disseminate my research in the academic community but also to the public and the young generation of scientists. For the latter, I supervise Higher degree research students and mentor many more.

I completed my PhD at the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008 and pursued postdoctoral fellowships at the UQ and the QIMR Berghofer. My goal is to pass on my knowledge and passion for venom drug discovery and bridge the gap between basic and translational research.

What have you learned during your career to increase your resilience? 

I have learned to stay focused and invest on what is important for me in life. I always try to see the big picture, to not get sidetracked by disappointments or difficulties and to interact with positive and career-driven people, who can help me to keep on pushing my boundaries.

What is the most important advice you have ever been given? 

I have received two good pieces of advice: “Do not give up without trying your best” and “Do not get mad, get even”. Both of these have worked well for me and it can be easily applied in every aspect of life.

Do you think it is important to have a mentor? 

It is essential to have a good mentor, who can give you advice and guidance throughout your career. In fact, I would recommend having multiple mentors with expertise in different fields, especially if you have changed research field or professional career.

What are your favourite past‐times or hobbies? 

I believe in having a healthy-active mind that corresponds to a healthy-active body. So far, I have enjoyed different martial arts and sports; but I mainly practice Shotokan karate.

Are you a science communicator? Why and how do you communicate? 

It is vital for scientists to communicate their research equally to academia and the public. We, as scientists, should be able to present our achievements and expectations as well as the challenges we face in our investigations and showcase our contributions to the society, aiming for a better and healthier world.

LinkedIn: Maria Ikonomopoulou

ResearchGate: Maria Ikonomopoulou


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