MCAA – Meet the Board

MCAA Board

Mostafa Moonir Shawrav's picture

Mostafa Moonir Shawrav

Mostafa is the Chair of MCAA. Earlier, he was Vice Chair and managed the internal governance & sponsorship. He led the organization of MCAA GA & AC 2019 in Vienna. He is also a founding member of MCAA Austrian Chapter, Research Funding and Events & Networking working group. He was a chair of Austrian Chapter from 2017 to 2018.

He finished his PhD and post-docs from TU Wien, Austria. From his masters degree in Netherlands and research experience at Belgium, he gathered experience and established an effective network of peers.

His expertise include Science Diplomacy, Non-profit Leaderships, Entrepreneurships and Intercultural Competences. He has organized sessions on on those topics including sustainable research career, supporting researchers mobility at international events including World Science Forum, Vitae Conference, ESOF. He also provides training and Keynote talks on Career Paths for Researchers at universities and research institutions.

His efforts and achievements have own him several awards in research including Young Scientist Award at E-MRS 2015 and IFSM 2014, 2018 and MCAA Alumni of the Year Award 2014, the first award of its kind. From 2016, he is a fellow of Royal Microscopical Society, UK.

Please visit his personal site for more information.

Fernanda Bajanca's picture
Vice Chair

Fernanda Bajanca

Fernanda is Vice Chair of the MCAA. She is an active member since 2016, coordinating first the MCAA/EuroScientist policy webinars series, followed by the MCAA campaign for the ESOF 2018. From October 2017 to September 2019 she was the Chair of the Policy WG, leading it to win the “2018 Best Working Group Award”. She has also been a member of the MSCA Advisory Group since 2017 and has collaborated with the NewHoRRIzon project through the MSCA Social labs. Recently, she became Policy Advisor for the Initiative for Science in Europe (ISE) on behalf of the MCAA. She was awarded the MCAA “Outstanding Contributor Award” at the 2019 GA.

She holds a PhD in Developmental Biology, and after having dedicated 20 years to fundamental research she now manages clinical research at a children’s hospital in France.

Valentina Ferro's picture
Vice Chair

Valentina Ferro

Valentina Ferro has been an active member of MCAA since her first year in the ITN program PHOQUS. By founding and chairing the Scotland chapter, she had the opportunity to meet and engage with other MCAA members, and thanks to their collective help she was able to organise acclaimed events, like the "Science of SciFi" Series of public talks. She is also collaborating on the MCAA Blog and other activities in the communication WG. 

Before starting her PhD in biophysics at the University of Dundee, she graduated from the University of Catania, where she holds a BSc and an MSc in physics, with majors in material sciences and nanotechnology. For her master thesis, she worked as an intern in the photovoltaic department of IMEC, micro- and nano-electronics research centre headquartered in Leuven (Belgium).

She has lived in four different countries, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Scotland, and has travelled to more than 20, as she is passionate about meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. Her spare time is filled with science communication, crocheting, drawing and discussing new ideas with friends over a beer. 

Francesco Sanna's picture

Francesco Sanna

Francesco graduated in Italy from the faculty of Aerospace Engineering and, despite he was a researcher in applied physics at the national Dutch national center of research, he holds his Ph.D. in a French university. Right after the Ph.D. defense he decided to change his career path and he joined the European Central Bank, where he worked on different topics, such as inflation, modelling of fire sales, and stress test modelling.  

In addition, Francesco has been always very active socially. He was an ordinary member of the first MCAA board and the chair of the "Events&Network" Working Group. Francesco, together with the collaboration of the Working Group members organized international events. He is also involved in other associations, which work on research and investments for research.

Francesco is convinced that Einstein without funding could not have been Einstein.

This is why he decided to dedicate his career to finance and work for investments for research and technology. Currently Francesco is also enrolled in the master in finance for professionals at the London Business School and he is just come back from China, where he spent a semester as an MBA student.

In the future Francesco wants to work for private equity and entrepreneurship, as well as on building strong relationships between researchers and institutions.



Marina Rantanen's picture

Marina Rantanen


Marina Rantanen is the secertary of the MCAA since April 2020 and was previously the chair of the German chapter.

Marina received an MSc degree in Mechanical Engineering from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in 2013 and an MSc degree in General Management from SSE Stockholm School of Economics in 2011. She worked as a thermography teaching assitant at FLIR Systems in 2007-2009 and was the editor in cheif of the KTH magazine Osqledaren in 2009-2010. She was selected for a young professionals’ program at HiQ/Scania in 2012 where she worked with test automation and driving simulator development. She then moved on as a graduate robotics engineer at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands from 2013 to 2015 working on the European Robotic Arm and the Multi-purpose-End-To-End-Robotic-Operations-Network. In 2015-2016 she was a research engineer at the Smart Mobility Lab at KTH developing visualizations of connected mobility. Since August 1st 2016 she has been part of the process dynamics and operations group at Technische Universität Dortmund as a doctoral candidate focusing on comprehensive modeling of Cyber Physical Systems.

Her thesis "A differentially steered drive unit for autonomous stage wagons" was awarded first prize in Automation Region's contest Automation Student 2012. Marina has been on the jury of Automation Student since 2014 and contributes continuously to science outlets, most recently with a blog on the online publication Tidningen Curie of the Swedish Research Council. 



Alexandra Dubini's picture
Ordinary Board Member

Alexandra Dubini

Dr. Alexandra Dubini is a distinguished researcher at the University of Córdoba, UCO, Spain. She completed her PhD at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom and then worked 10 years as a scientific researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado, USA. In 2015, she joined the UCO where she is currently PI and coordinator of an ERANETMED project (WABA) that uses consortia of algae bacteria for bioremediation of wastewater and biomass valorization. She also specialized in the production of biofuels and more specifically hydrogen from green algae. Her research combines fundamental research and biotechnological applications. Through her work, she is developing new sustainable energy solutions using microalgae as renewable alternatives. Since 2019, she has also been part of 2 groups of experts from the European Commission related to Energy and climate, as well as the Environment, circular economy and resource efficiency. Finally, Dr Dubini is an advocate for the ecologic transition but also for women in science. It is important to empower women in leadership position in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) to bridge the gender gap and help diversify roles and initiatives in terms of climate change actions.

Esther Hegel's picture
Ordinary Board Member

Esther Hegel

Esther is the current Chair of the MCAA Benelux Chapter and will be working on internal governance, non-profit partnerships and events with a focus on bridging science and business. She pursued her PhD in the field of Molecular Biotechnology at DSM and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and is currently working as research project manager in Frankfurt in the field of Bioeconomy and Biotechnology. 


Donata Iandolo's picture
Ordinary Board Member

Donata Iandolo

I am a researcher and I come from a small town in Southern Italy.

I am currently based in France where I work as a senior postdoctoral fellow. My major research interest lies at the interface between bioelectronics and stem cell fate, with a particular focus on musculoskeletal regeneration.

So far, I have been living in various different countries. My first experience abroad was in Sweden, I then moved to Singapore and then back to Europe to start my IF first in France and then in the UK. Here I worked at the University of Cambridge and I got increasingly involved with the MCAA. I have been involved in the activities of the UK Chapter, having organized a workshop on mental health in Cambridge in 2019.

The connection between research culture, policy and researchers’ wellbeing, and mental health is my major interest and the reason for getting more and more involved with MCAA.


Ana Lopes's picture
Ordinary Board Member

Ana Lopes

Here is Ana Lopes, since 2006 Biological Engineer by Minho University, and since 2014 Master in Organic Agriculture by Ponte de Lima Agrarian School. My field work done in between, merged my volunteer and professional skills. After finishing my Environmental Education training from the Biotechnology School of the Catholic University of Porto, I joined various environmental projects that made me travel the country and abroad and live different realities. I had finally the chance to merge my knowledge and biotechnology academic skills with the soft skills gained along this complementary path, when in 2014, I joined SPReD Lab, on the Faculty of Sciences of University of Porto, beginning, at that moment, to consolidate my actual scientific path.


Ongoing project...

From ovule to seed development by Arabinogalactan Proteins and cytokinin oxidase/dehydrogenase SEEDSTICK target genes

Agriculture depends on seeds and seeds on sexual reproduction. Seeds are essential for consumption and basal sources to generate high value added products. Understanding the factors regulating sexual plant reproduction is a complex biological process and currently an essential need.
Combining transcriptomic and genetic approaches, the aim is to increase our knowledge on transcriptional, signalling and hormonal functions of the network controlling seed formation in Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant sharing a conserved developmental program with major crop plants. A key factor controlling seed development is SEEDSTICK (STK), a MADSbox factor that determines ovule identity, seed development and abscission. Recently, STK was shown to diretly regulate many AGPs genes and cytokinins related genes. A detailed characterization of theses targets is now needed to understand their role in the network controlling seed development.

Sara Ricardo's picture
Ordinary Board Member

Sara Ricardo

I am a life scientist field with 15+ years academic research and leadership experience in London (PhD), New York (Post-Doc) and Barcelona (Junior PI). I am based in Barcelona since moving here after the award of a Career-Track Principal Investigator position in 2012. I since then left the academic world and am currently working in the tech start-up sector. I simultaneously also work as an independent consultant and coach, working with foundations, companies and academic institutions. I am experienced in managing teams, projects and budgets and developing partnerships and collaborations with non governmental organisations, academic institutions and in the for profit healttech sector.

I am currently a Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) Board Member, Business Developmer in an Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Medical Imaging Start-Up and External consultant.

I am a contributor to researchers' policy issues, including 1. Stakeholders’ responsibility and the sustainability of the scientific academic system and 2. How to increase the diversity of roles and empower women in leadership positions in Science and Tech. I have a long standing interest in science policy and innovation issues and on how these can intersect for the achievement of sustainable goals in, with and for a global and fair society.

Within MCAA, apart from currently serving in the Board, I have served on the Board of the Portugal-Spanish Chapter from 2015-2017 and am an active Policy WG member since 2016.


Karen Stroobants's picture
Ordinary Board Member

Karen Stroobants

I am a policy adviser at the Royal Society of Chemistry, and advise on regulation related to research environments, researcher careers and environmental policy. I previously worked on the research culture programme of the Royal Society, including research integrity, research evaluation, inclusion and diversity and researcher careers. 

I took up my Marie Skłodowska-Curie post-doctoral Fellowship at the Centre for Misfolding Diseases, Chemistry Department, University of Cambridge, where I studied membrane protein aggregates and their potential role in neurodegenerative diseases. Before moving to the UK, I completed my PhD at KU Leuven in Belgium.

I became an active member of MCAA over three years ago and am vice-chair of the MCAA Policy Working Group since 2018. My biggest accomplishments in this capacity have been professionalising MCAA's policy writing and representing MCAA at European Research Area Committee meetings.

My favourite topics are research culture, gender equality and transitioning from a research to a policy career, do engage with me at events, especially on these topics.