My name is Luis Cunha, I am a biologist with a passion for invertebrates, in particular, the humble earthworm!
I am an environmental biologist who became a bioinformatician led by the demands of personal research interests mainly towards invertebrate ecotoxicology, genomics and adaptations to extreme aquatic and terrestrial environments. As a scientist, I always felt highly motivated and committed to the pursuit of a career as an independent research leader and inspirational teacher in biological sciences. I carry a boundless enthusiasm for my research subjects and a passion to communicate such enthusiasm to the public alike, factors which strength my confidence to contribute positively to the high-quality research-led priority of Cardiff University. Day-to-day involvement in the supervision of undergraduate research projects during my post-doctoral period at Cardiff confirmed my desire to integrate active research with effective teaching. The following is a brief resume of my personal achievements and technical skills.
My interest in biological sciences led me to pursue a degree in Biology in one of my favourite places on earth, the Azores Islands, Portugal. During my bachelor studies, I also had the opportunity to conduct research in the Mexican Caribbean region, where I participated in a short-term research programme about invertebrate larval nutritional and general physiology aspects. The research focused on invertebrate’s husbandry, mainly in an attempt of obtaining basic biological information for productive purposes. The success of my research project reinforced my conviction to pursue a career in research and allowed me to attain a First Class Honours degree. In September of 2005, I received an M.Sc. scholarship from the European Social Fund in order to attend the M.Sc. course in Shellfish Biology, Fisheries and Culture at Bangor University. Under the supervision of Dr. Lewis Le Vay, I was able to study the physiology of soft corals and the impact of standard husbandry practices. By the time, I had become interested in questions about how organisms respond and adapt to stressful conditions and I thought that the volcanic islands of Azores would be an appropriate “natural laboratory” to address such questions. I started collaborating with a research group at the Universidade dos Acores and after few months applied to the Science Foundation of the Regional Government of Azores (SRCT) for a Ph.D. scholarship with the project entitled “The effects of extreme environments of volcanic origin in organisms using earthworms as models” (Grant M3.1.2/F/029/2007-RTF/3). At the time I found that studying the particular and unique features of the reducing environments of geothermal biotopes (i.e. the combination of elevated soil, water, and atmospheric elemental composition, together with constant diffuse degassing and high temperatures) was most interesting because the ephemeral nature of the geothermal field is expected to favour the colonization by species with remarkable colonization abilities.
Lagoa do Fogo, Sao Miguel, Azores
My period at Cardiff University has been marked by my involvement in research during my post-doctoral work, but also by my interaction with graduate and undergraduate students, whom I helped to advise in their research projects. The teaching experiences I collected in Portugal and the UK, as well as the workshops that I organised (e.g. 1st Workshop on “Volcanic environments and their impact on biological organisms” or the 1st Workshop on studies in Terra Preta de Indio (Amazonian Dark Earths)), have unambiguously underlined my commitment to pursuing an academic career.
1st Workshop on studies in Terra Preta de Indio
In fact, I consider that my knowledge and experience, coupled with my personal enthusiasm to understand the living world, serve as a key combination of personal traits necessary to carry on research into the future and transmit my biological knowledge and excitement to the future generations of researchers.
Keep an eye on my blog and feel free to get in touch