Text and interview: Magdalena Gigova
Video: Dr Ivalina Trendafilova
‘I am extremely happy to hear that the campaign of NEF ‘13th century Bulgaria’ will continue despite obstacles and the unusual situation,’ wrote Dr Ivalina Trendafilova in her email. She is one of six nominees for the first edition of the National Prize in support of young talents in the arts and science.
On several consecutive Mondays, NEF ‘13th century Bulgaria’ will present each of the contenders on its website. And if you decide to support these talented people, you can contribute to the donation campaign launched by the Fund at https://fund13veka.bg/talant/
The competition, which is being held for the first time, posed a challenge to Bulgarian citizens of up to 35 years of age with a university degree in the arts or science, and innovative achievements in their respective field.
A mandatory requirement was that contenders for the prize and the BGN 5,000 (a sum that is to cover the winner’s educational expenses) were to have been accepted in 2019 for postgraduate qualification at accredited higher education institutions in Europe, excluding Bulgaria.
We present the nominees in the order in which they submitted their documents.
Today is the turn of Dr Ivalina Trendafilova.
Bachelor’s degree, Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy, St Kliment Ohridski University, Sofia.
Master of Medicinal Chemistry, Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy, St Kliment Ohridski University, Sofia.
Doctor of Sciences, Institute of Organic Chemistry with Centre of Phytochemistry, BAS, Sofia.
Author of scores of scientific publications in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology.
Project leader in the development of new nanocomposite systems and new delivery systems of bioflavonoids.
Winner of awards and honours, including the Prof. Marin Drinov Award for Young Scientists, Nanoscience, New Materials and Technologies Research Division, BAS, Sofia, Bulgaria, 2019.
We asked Ivalina what happened to her after she was officially nominated.
‘My news is that my postdoctoral internship in Ljubljana, Slovenia, ended back in March, but because of the impossibility of travelling owing to the emergency situation relating to the spread of coronavirus, I returned to Bulgaria as late as May.
Then, I was appointed to the position of Chief Assistant (after succeeding in a competition for the post) at the Institute of Organic Chemistry with the Centre of Phytochemistry at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. I applied and my project was approved for funding under the Young Scientists and Postdoctoral Students National Programme of the Ministry of Education and Science. The project is in the current interdisciplinary field of nanomedicine, and its main goal is to develop innovative systems for theranostics (therapy and diagnostics) of socially significant diseases by loading potential chemotherapeutics of natural origin in nanoscale mesoporous composite carriers, providing targeted delivery and controlled release.
At the beginning of June, I was also appointed to the National Centre for Mechatronics and Clean Technologies, funded by the Operational Science and Education Programme for Smart Growth, co-financed by the EU through the European Regional Development Fund.
Dr Trendafilova also answered several questions that inevitably arise when one reads her impressive biography as a young scientist.
For the unenlightened in your science, the term ‘nano’ means something very small, invisible to the naked eye. Can you explain in simple words what exactly your work is?
My work is mainly focused on developing materials with preset parameters, because when we can control the size, composition, even the shape of the particles, we can control their properties.
My research possesses a potential application in the therapy and diagnostics of various diseases, allowing for the reduction of undesirable side effects of medicines with toxic or irritant impacts, and improving the solubility of biologically active substances of natural origin, thus allowing delivery to the desired organ or tissue without damaging the healthy ones.
In addition to their being carriers of medicinal substances, the materials that I obtain can, after appropriate modification, be successfully used as catalysts in the purification of industrial waste water.
New technologies are uncharted territory; are you sometimes afraid of the consequences that accompany achievements?
We should always approach the unknown with respect and a calculated risk. Historically, for example, many major discoveries were made as military developments. The consequences can either be terrifying or to the benefit of all mankind. What is important is that the goals and motives of the people responsible for the development of new technologies are noble.
Since the time of Marie Curie, science has not been considered purely male territory, but prejudices still exist. Have you ever faced any of these?
No, I haven’t. Worldwide, the number of male scientists still takes precedence, but I think the prejudice that this is a ‘male’ profession is something long left in the past. In the teams that I have worked with, there has always been respect for the ideas and work of every member of the group, regardless of gender or age.
Your postdoctoral specialisation was at the National Institute of Chemistry, Ljubljana, Slovenia. What attracted you to that particular educational institution?
The team I worked with. My research supervisor, Prof. Margarita Popova, has a long and fruitful record of cooperation with the team I work in, a result of which was my one-month internship in Slovenia during my doctoral studies. On my first visit, I was extremely impressed by the modern equipment available, and the base they have, while the team of young and already established scientists provides a wonderful environment for developing new ideas.
Do you see ‘bright minds’ among your students, and is there a hope for science of high quality in Bulgaria?
In Bulgaria, being involved in science is not an easy path to follow, but our education is still at a very high level and universities have the capacity to prepare promising specialists. Among my young colleagues there are many agile minds with an enthusiasm for development in science, who I hope will continue to maintain science in the country at a high level.
Video presentation of Ivalina Trendafilova in the link below: