FLI Inauguration Lecture of Melike Dönertaş


Research group leader offers insights into the current work of the "AI in Microbiome and Aging Research" group.

The Leibniz Institute  on Aging - Fritz-Lipmann Institute in Jena (FLI) cordially invites to the Inauguration Lecture of Dr. Melike Dönertaş. The hybrid event will begin on Thursday, March 7, 2024, at 3 p.m. in the "Nucleus" seminar room.

Dr. Melike Dönertaş' research group, "AI in Microbiome and Aging Research", began its work at FLI a year ago. With the team now fully assembled, the 32-year-old is dedicated to various projects at the intersection of data science, microbiome, and aging research. "We leverage underutilized microbiome data in aging research by developing data integration strategies and computer models for aging and longitudinal studies, exploring the microbiome's impact on aging and its potential as a predictor and modifier of the aging process.", explains Melike Dönertaş. Accordingly, the research group works on projects on causal models, prediction models, and the analysis of extensive human cohorts and clinical datasets. Additionally, the research group has a particular interest in the field of cellular senescence. In her inauguration lecture "From Data to Discovery – Understanding Aging and Microbiome through Computational Biology," Melike Dönertaş will delve into the work already done and provide insights into current research questions.

During her master's studies, Melike Dönertaş developed an interest in aging and worked on the molecular changes associated with age in early or late life. Her doctoral research in Prof Dame Janet Thornton’s group at the EMBL-EBI and University of Cambridge focused on the computational search for alternatives in drug development. "This involved evaluating existing drugs and small molecules developed for other purposes for their potential in targeting aging. We also investigated the link between aging and age-related diseases to determine if there are common genetic factors that can be targeted to delay or prevent multiple age-related diseases simultaneously", she recalls. Investigating how gene expression levels change with age, Dr. Dönertaş and her collaborators discovered that while tissues differentiate during development, they begin to resemble each other again in old age, losing their identity.

After her work in Ankara and Cambridge, Melike Dönertaş joined the group of Prof. Dario Riccardo Valenzano in 2021, where she has been working on the microbiome and aging. Due to her successful scientific outcomes, she was awarded an EMBO Fellowship Postdoctoral Scholarship to fund her own position. Since January 2023, she has been leading the research group “AI in Microbiome and Aging Research”, funded by the Carl Zeiss Foundation. Additionally, Dönertaş collaborates with the DFG Collaborative Research Center 1310 Predictability in Evolution and the Michael Stifel Center Jena for Data-Driven and Simulation-Based Sciences. She is also an active member of the International Society for Computational Biology, holding leadership positions in global student and junior PI groups.

External participants are cordially invited to the inauguration lecture. Please contact therefore: ivonne.roeppnack-jahnke@~@leibniz-fli.de