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Anna Nebish, a grapevine histology and genetics researcher from Yerevan State University (YSU) and The Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) of the National Academy of Sciences of Armenia (NAS RA), is the first researcher from Armenia to be awarded the prestigious  EU Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action Individual Fellowship for her innovative GRAPEINNOVATION project: Molecular, genetic and cellular study of grapevine seedless genotypes from different origins as new genetic sources for innovation in table grapevine breeding.

Through this fellowship, Anna has been given the opportunity to engage in a two-year research endeavor at the Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences (ICVV) in Spain. At ICVV, she has joined a multidisciplinary research team involved in the GRAPEINNOVATION project, collaborating with the University of Trento in Italy.

The general goal of GRAPEINNOVATION research was to widen the genetic sources of seedlessness in the grapevine, increase the genetic diversity used in breeding programs, and improve their innovation.  Grapevine cultivars with newly identified genes related to different types of seedlessness enforce the valuable material for the improvement of table grape production and the development of elite table and raisin grape varieties. These advancements aim to promote economic growth and enhance national agricultural autonomy in both the EU and Armenia, offering innovative strategies for the development of new seedless grape varieties through breeding programs.

Anna encountered certain challenges when writing her proposal and submitting her application. Her supervisor provided scientific support and she had received profound knowledge and skills for proposal preparation through MSCA IF training organised in Armenia by the Net4mobility+ project (Horizon 2020 National Contact Points for Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions). Anna directed all efforts to improve her IF proposal and submit a high-quality application in 2019 which attained a notably high score and was approved for funding in 2020. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and a two-month delay, Anna was able to commence her fellowship.

The fellowship has enabled Nebish to initiate her primary research objective: a multidisciplinary study of plant reproductive biology and fruit set. In particular, she integrated the knowledge she gained during her doctoral studies with cutting-edge techniques essential for examining seedlessness at the molecular level, by using NGS sequencing and bioinformatics tools. Her experience during the MSCA IF project has equipped Anna with distinctive skills and proficiency in the field of table grapevine genetics and breeding. 

In conclusion, Anna strongly endorses the idea that researchers should pursue Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions to further their personal research goals and career growth. As Nebish states: “Success is possible only thanks to everyday activities, collaborations, and relations with the main professionals in your field… and, sure, one day it can completely change your life, and the scientific adventure will start!”

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