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Prof. San Miguel Receives a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award

Professor Adriana San Miguel
Prof. Adriana San Miguel

CBE Professor Adriana San Miguel has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Portugal in the 2024-2025 academic year. She plans to work with Dr. Clévio Nobrega at Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal, who is an expert on the molecular basis of neurodegenerative disorders, including the role of protein aggregation and RNA binding proteins. 

The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program offers over 400 awards in more than 135 countries for individuals to teach, conduct research and carry out professional projects around the world. Prof. San Miguel will join over 400,000 Fulbrighters who have come away with enhanced skills, new connections, and greater mutual understanding.

The Universidade do Algarve, Faro (UALg), is the leading Higher Education institution in the South of Portugal. UALg is recognized for the excellence of its research, the quality of its teaching, and the close relations it establishes with society. Dr. Clévio Nobrega has been an Assistant Professor at UALg for seven years and serves as the Director of the Algarve Biomedical Center Research institute since 2021. His lab, Molecular Neuroscience and Gene Therapy Group, has three main research aims, ranging from basic to translational research and innovation. First, they aim to develop patient-derived cellular and rodent-based models to study the progression of incurable rare diseases, in particular neurodegenerative disorders. Next, using these novel models, they strive to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying the onset, development, and progression of these disorders, which is crucial to identify novel targets and opportunities for therapeutic intervention. Lastly, they aim to develop advanced disease-modifying therapies, especially those based on gene therapy using viral vectors, which can be translated from the bench to the bedside, creating economic value, and improving the lives of patients suffering from these disorders.

Comparatively, in her research laboratory, Dr. San Miguel investigates aging and neurodegeneration in C. elegans in order to understand the mechanisms and targets of devastating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.  Her research uniquely integrates microfluidics, machine learning, and C. elegans biology.  She has developed new technological platforms that make analysis of subtle or highly complex phenotypes feasible – work that would be impossible with conventional methods.  Her novel findings include the endogenous spatiotemporal behavior of key aging pathways, identification of lifespan-regulating genes, changes in aging synapses, patterns of neurodegeneration in worm neurons, and the responses of animals to combinations of chemicals under different environments.  

The research that Dr. San Miguel proposes for her Fulbright at the Universidade do Algarve, Faro, Portugal, is not only highly innovative, but also an opportunity to use her high-content analysis tools in the more recent area of RNA-protein granules and cellular phase separation in the context of neurodegenerative diseases. The collaboration combines Dr. Clévio Nobrega’s expertise on RNA-binding proteins, essential for stress granule formation and at the root of neurodegenerative diseases, with Dr. San Miguel’s expertise on neurodegeneration in C. elegans. The proposed work is thus expected to open up a new area of research not yet explored in C. elegans.

Congratulations to Prof. Adriana San Miguel on this award! The CBE department is excited to see the innovative research that comes from this opportunity.