“Being a Gamow award winner is, on the one hand, the manifestation of the importance of the topic I am working on, achieving the recognition of the work of my colleagues and co-authors, people who supported me on my path in science. On the other hand, this is a great responsibility, especially now, and a reason to think about the support of Russian-speaking scientists and students,” says Alexandra Zhernakova.
Alexandra Zhernakova is Full Professor of Human Genome and Exposome at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and the first Gamow award winner outside the US. Her group is focused on understanding the complex interaction of host genetics, environmental factors and intestinal bacteria in relation to aging, autoimmune diseases, gut and metabolic health. She graduated back in Russia as a pediatrician (Pediatric University, St. Petersburg), in the Netherlands she started her research career there by doing volunteer work, followed by a research technician, and then a PhD position. She is one of the founders of the Groningen Microbiome Hub and is leading several large projects studying the dynamics and evolution of gut bacteria and viruses in population cohorts of adults (Lifelines) and babies (Lifelines-NEXT). Her work on the extensive longitudinal analysis of the microbiome during pregnancy in mothers and the first years of life in babies aims at understanding the role of prenatal and early life factors, gut ecosystem, and host factors on babies’ health.