Bulgaria (Fulbright S&T Alumna 2008)
Milena Leseva is a Ph.D. student in Molecular Cell Biology at the University of Florida, Gainesville. As a recipient of the International Fulbright Science & Technology Award, her research is focused on the epigenetic mechanisms of gene expression regulation, particularly at the early stages of mammalian embryonic development.
Developmental progression coincides with a gradual loss in developmental potential (potency) as the cells of the early embryo move from a pluripotent to an ever more restricted, lineage committed state. The molecular basis of this process is the setting, interpretation, and erasure of epigenetic marks. This epigenetic dynamic allows for chromatin re-organization and the establishment of transcriptional networks that drive cells into the diverse lineages of the future organism. In some sense they act as a cellular “road-map”. The characterization of the molecular complexes involved in some of the earliest cell fate decision-making points will contribute to the understanding of proper embryonic development and the mechanisms of the de-differentiation processes observed during cancerogenesis.
Born and raised in Bulgaria, Milena received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Sofia University. While in the United States, she has discovered a love for travel and fully engaging in different cultural environments.