Meet Stefan Jarić
A young researcher with the task to integrate physics and material science into a compact and miniaturized chip with the (bio)sensing powers
- What does it mean for you to be a researcher trainee at BioSense Institute, a place where people practice world science, and innovative ideas are materialized for the benefit of society?
Earning scientific experience. For me, this is the most important item for answering this question. To do science is a very difficult job, although that is something hard to understand for someone outside of science in terms of how science is a job or what “doing science” means. I think that doing research in science is a synergy of continual learning and gaining huge experience. Learning means to understand something to facilitate my future research. On the other hand, gaining notable experience helps me to learn more effectively, to predict or assume the outcome in work. Additionally, there is the question of time. A workday of a scientist can be very long, especially if the experiment lasts longer than expected or there is an idea that can be implemented immediately during the experiment.
Collaboration. What is unique for BioSense Institute is the fact that I can collaborate with colleagues from different scientific disciplines. That has helped me a lot in getting out of the frame of one scientific area, which in my case is physics. I consider multidisciplinary necessary for the faster and more effective implementation of new ideas. Here, I would also mention collaboration with international institutions through scientific projects. It is another plus to give a chance to a young researcher to travel and widen their knowledge, but also a plus for the Institute as well.
Doing science. This suits my character a lot.
- What projects are you working on and what is your role in them?
For a young researcher and student of doctoral studies like me, the most important project is research within the doctoral dissertation.
Beside that, I am working in several project groups:
- IPANEMA – development of graphene-based biosensing platforms for the detection of cyanotoxins
- NANOFACTS – development of biosensors for the detection of cancer biomarkers and microfluidic chips for the integration into a “laboratory-on-chip”
- RealSense – research on possibilities of detecting ammonia in cell culture medium
- MicroLabAptaSens – development of new graphene-based biosensors for the detection of some pathogens in food.
- What research is in your focus and what prompted you to dedicate yourself to it?
Currently, I am working on my PhD thesis research, and that is my most important task. The research concerns the development of new graphene field-effect transistor-based biosensing solutions for the detection of some food contaminants, such as mycotoxins and cyanotoxins. Since I come from the field of physics, my research focuses on mechanisms and principles of detection, which imply a lot of experimental and theoretical work, along with the development of the biosensor for accurate and precise detection. Besides that, my research includes the development of other graphene- and grapheneous material-based biosensors. At the beginning of my BioSense journey, I did not know that I would work on the abovementioned research, but soon after I started, the nature and complexity of the topic attracted me to the point where I would devote myself fully and label it as my scientific expertise. Right now, together with my supervisor, we are the only researchers working with the graphene materials at the institute, and I think it is very important for me to be the basis of the future research group with the expertise in graphene.
To be honest, what motivates and demotivates me at the same time is unsuccessful experiments. I am always looking for motivation wishing for an experiment to work by considering possible mistakes. It is in human nature to be disappointed by a failure, and one should be realistic and say that “a failed experiment“ may affect you and your further work negatively. But in my case, such state of mind lasts short (especially if I go into some off-topic discussion with the colleagues from the office). And, this is the thing I found comfortable, a dynamic road along the research way! But when the experiment works, there is only a motivation to make future success.
- Why are these studies important and how will they change the world? Will ordinary citizens benefit from it?
Research in the field of (bio)sensing mainly focuses on finding the best combination of materials and recognition elements for analytes to realize the best sensitivity, better specificity, and a fast response. Such goals are set also in my research. Graphene is a material known to have extraordinary electrical characteristics, and such properties are used to develop sensing elements with unprecedented performances not found in the literature. Reaching such performances and its reproducibility are important because of the need for overcoming current standard methods for analysis. These analyses are very accurate and reliable, but there is a need for more professional staff, and the duration of analyses can take days. Present-day needs are different. Namely, the need for a fast yet reliable analysis is of utmost desire, as well as in-field analysis, which is advantageous for biosensors with respect to the laboratory analysis. Therefore, it is always useful to develop solutions that would be used by ordinary customers without any knowledge about the analysis method.
- You often cooperate with researchers from Europe, but also from around the world. How important is this exchange of ideas and knowledge?
In my opinion, I think that for BioSense as a young institute, collaboration with scientific centers from Europe and the world is highly desirable. That will make BioSense a part of the global scientific map. The other thing is, of course, knowledge transfer. For us, young researchers, it is very useful to gain knowledge at international institutions, to learn how research is planned and realized, how one research group is working, and finally to engage in future collaborations with them.
I am pleased that I have had the chance to visit a couple of universities and research groups worldwide through the European Commission projects. Each of those visits was a new experience for me and an opportunity to learn about new technology or methods. And, of course, a unique opportunity to travel!
- What do you think is the greatest responsibility of researchers and scientists today?
The biggest responsibility of each scientist is to respect the codices of science and to bring out facts resulting from only experimental or theoretical cognition. Perhaps this is the hardest part for a researcher – to persuade the public regarding the reliability and accuracy of his/her study. Especially today, in an era of social networks, when everybody can be a scientist despite their potentially non-scientific background, the trust in a scientist is getting weaker. That is why I think that the responsibility of a scientist to explain the research and present the results to the general public is very big today. Also, I would add the mankind progress, which brings a lot of challenges, such as needs for food, economic development, or environmental issues. In my opinion, scientists are those who should lead human progress in a right and sustainable direction.