Nina Ilieva


I got my Bachelor degree in Ecochemistry and Master degree in Computational Chemistry at the University of Sofia, Bulgaria. There I worked on the conformational properties of antimicrobial peptides arenicins and on the affinity of doxorubicin (an antitumor agent) towards a drug-binding peptide. The latter was the project of my Master thesis. For both studies I was mainly using molecular dynamics simulations but I also had experience with quantum chemistry calculations. In 2014 I attended the Summer School on Atomistic Simulation Techniques hosted by SISSA and after finishing my Master program I applied for a PhD position in the Statistical and Biological Physics sector there.

Currently, I am doing my second year of PhD in Physics and Chemistry of Biological Systems under the supervision of Prof. Alessandro Laio. We are studying the statistical and molecular properties of membrane proteins. Recent development in technology enables us to watch biological molecular machines at work and we are now able to examine the surface topography of biological membranes and to study large biomolecules through mechanical manipulation. Single molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) experiments with atomic force microscopy (AFM) generate force-displacement curves which follow the unfolding pathways of biopolymers. In the case of membrane proteins by extracting them out of the membrane. To get a deeper understanding of the way these proteins work at molecular level and to evaluate the role of the membrane, we are developing a statistical model for such systems striving to reproduce the experimental data. Another area of interest concerns the analysis of AFM surface images of biological membranes.