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Assist. Prof. Dr. Monia Avdić: Microorganisms Love Company!
Feb 26, 2018

Assist. Prof. Dr. Monia Avdić: Microorganisms Love Company!

Monia Avdić is a young and talented professor at the International Burch University, Department of Genetics and Bioengineering. A girl of calm spirit but an extremely clear mind, coming from Mostar and Rondou - her hometown in Herzegovina where she grew up. Monia spent a large part of her childhood abroad, and in Australia, she realized love for biology and fundamental science. She spent hours and days in museums fascinated by the diversity of the living world - which, although it seems so complex at first glance, is actually extremely simple if it is understood in the right way.

"I want to bring science closer to students at the Department of Genetics and Bioengineering of International Burch University, from the basic level. Primarily, I want to explain how life originated, how we walked from the big bang to what we live today. Basically, I want to clarify continuity in science, I want to show how everything relies on the fundamentals of science. In the end, everything depends on the approach and it is especially important that people are flexible and accept different views. At the very beginning, students have difficulties in dealing with specific topics such as genetic engineering and genetic modifications, but the pathway determined by three basic sciences, namely biology, chemistry, and physics, must be followed. "

The key is to accept and transfer knowledge in a way that others understand it

"Knowledge does not represent much of the learned facts and dry data, especially not in the field of molecular biology. Knowing the fundamental principles of biology, chemistry, and physics is essential, however, it must be raised to the extent of integrating these facts and perceiving their application in everyday life. When we accept it we are on the right path, then life becomes more meaningful. Of course, knowledge in mathematics is bound to it, because mathematics is the language of the universe. However, in the field of molecular biology, it is also necessary to acquire adequate laboratory skills, which enables the application of science in solving problems such as finding new drugs, diagnosing diseases and solving burning issues. Taking this into account, at the International Burch University, we teach our students that the key to science is to integrate theoretical and laboratory knowledge in order to achieve any results. Our students have huge potential; however, they need to be encouraged to show it. And we achieve this by focusing on each study separately. "

Smaller groups are more effective

"Professors working at the International Burch University are fully aware of their students’ potentials. For us, students are not just index numbers, they are unique individuals and they should be treated in different and effective ways. It is our responsibility as professors to get to know our students, recognize what they are best in, put emphasis on these qualities and then guide them in the direction that is best for them."

From the first year to the scientific work

“Already in the second year, I work with students who create scientific papers and bring ideas for projects on a daily basis. A team of our students during the breaks is engaged in working in laboratories, where they learn the techniques of work and so are preparing for the summer, conferences and scientific meetings. For this reason, I must boast that our students have been creating scientific publications for over 20 years and thus opening the doors of the whole world.”

The future of the world is uncertain, but science is a window into the world

"We witness that scientific achievements are being used daily for good and bad purposes; as scientists, we can hardly influence the people about using our findings properly. Currently, vaccines are becoming a major problem, especially in the era of fake news, where the false image is continually being created. Because of such pressure and false information, the number of vaccinated children is in a dramatic decline. We can note the return of the diseases that had been eradicated, and the situation is, I must say, giving an alarm about the wrong information. There are few who consult scientific workers and experts. Therefore, we, the people who work in science, have the obligation to educate members of our society and to teach them to think logically. We must, in fact, inform people to rationalize information they read every day.

Genetics is a science that helps

"Genetics as a science help us all the time, both in the treatment of the diseases and in the invention of certain therapies. One of these challenges is GMO, whose application will only be determined after many years. Generally, we are still not sure what the real effects of GMOs on humanity are. When we talk about pesticides, on the other hand, we know that they are harmful to human life. If I had to choose between GMO and pesticides, I would go with GMOs. Unfortunately, we do not mark GMO products. Soybean products, for example, are in most cases genetically modified, and I personally avoid them."

Science is not SF“

I think real scientists are not superheroes. The field I'm dealing with is research on microbial biofilms, quorum sensing and quorum quenching - which sounds a bit like SF, but it's far from it. Namely, bacteria have so far been regarded as "solitary" ones who roam freely and "genuine" when they enter the human organism. All media attention is devoted to the so-called "Infectious estradiol" such as MRSA, TBC, HIV, and the like, and the real benefit we have from bacteria is completely ignored. The surface of our skin, our gut and many other parts of the body are covered with a thick layer of bacteria called microbial. This microbial is crucial in preserving our health because it "seizes the territory" of "malicious bacteria" and prevents them from expanding. "

"Namely, most bacteria have the ability to form biofilms and live in them. Biofilm is an association of bacteria that live in a "sticky substance" that protects them. But that's not all. Biofilms are associations of microorganisms associated with the polysaccharide matrix and hooked to some biotic or abiotic superficial. I know it sounds complicated, but this can be completely put in simplified terms. Biofilms are associations of microorganisms, and until now microorganisms had been considered not to be social beings and to live independently. However, nowadays we know that microorganisms love the company and they enjoy inviting “friends” and socializing and making associations. When they reach a certain density of the population, they are only beginning to begin to express "social genes"! All of this sounds positive to us when we talk about microbiology, but today there are numerous infections based on biofilms and it's very hard to treat them. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that antibiotics in small doses act as signaling molecules and some prickly and bad bacteria to start behaving "socially", and in this way can cause major problems in the body. The key to treating these infections is to silence the signal or quorum quenching, which is what a team of Professors and Biofilm Research students do at Burch University. This is one of the many examples of why we need science, which can, among other things, which will explain how to apply antibiotics, which we can find even in meat because of longer food shelf life. But the answers to these questions can only be given by a science that is far from SF."