Ask the Experts: Dajana Vuckovic

D_VuckovicDajana Vuckovic
Assistant Professor of Bioanalytical Chemistry, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Concordia University in Montreal (QC, Canada).

Dajana currently holds Concordia University Research Chair in Clinical Metabolomics, Biomarkers and Preventative Health and was the winner of the 2014 Petro Canada Young Innovator Award. Dajana obtained a PhD in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Waterloo (ON, Canada) where her thesis focused on the development of in vivo solid-phase microextraction methodology for global metabolomics of blood in order to eliminate the need for blood withdrawal/collection under supervision of Professor Janusz Pawliszyn. Her postdoctoral training with Professor Andrew Emili at the University of Toronto (ON, Canada) accelerated the design of a new chemical proteomics method to detect interactions between proteins and small molecules without the need for labeling. The current research focus of Vuckovic group at Concordia is to design new protocols that improve metabolite coverage for untargeted metabolomics of biological fluids and tissues. This includes investigation of new extraction materials such as ionic liquids and hydrogels, sequential extractions and microextraction methods. To date, she has co-authored over 31 publications and nine book chapters, organized several national and international symposia on metabolomics and serves on the editorial board of Bioanalysis journal.

What began your interest in metabolomics?

During my PhD at the University of Waterloo, my thesis focused on developing in vivo solid-phase microextraction sampling for mice. This new type of sampling completely eliminates the need for blood withdrawal and has the potential to revolutionize the field of bioanalysis. Within the context of this project, I had to characterize what types of molecules our current devices were able to extract and to design new coatings suitable for even broader metabolite coverage and metabolomics studies.

The idea of simultaneously measuring hundreds or thousands of metabolites in order to understand underlying metabolite pathways immediately excited me, and my passion for metabolomics was born. Analytical chemistry is a key (and sometimes overlooked) component to achieving success in metabolomics, and the immense opportunities in this area have fuelled my creativity, innovation and scientific curiosity ever since my very first metabolomics experiment.