Meet Dijana Vitko
1. Tell me in 5 words who is Dijana Vitko?
Spontaneous, stubborn, curious, travel- and nature-enthusiast.
2. What made you join CeMM?
I wanted to expand my analytical skills and apply these to biological and medically relevant questions. Ph.D. position in Mass Spectrometry & Proteomics Department at CeMM focused on investigating proteins related to health and disease coughed my attention. During the interview, I was fascinated by the reception, the interview structure, the terrace with an incredible view of Vienna, the labs, and most importantly – the PEOPLE!
3. What is it about science that interests you the most?
Digging into the unknown and knowing there will always be more questions than answers. Scientifically, I am intrigued by the complexity of immune system and wonder what goes wrong (and why) in a disease setting. Technically, I am impressed by rapid technological advances that move research forward - at faster pace! Within the past ten years, I have witnessed mass spectrometry instrumentation becoming faster and more sensitive each year. These improvements now enable large-scale, deep, and unbiased molecular profiling of clinical samples, paving the way to novel therapeutics and diagnostic tests for pathologies with the highest unmet need.
4. What is the best career advice you ever received, or you can give to the CeMM community?
#1 Embrace the change – may be vague, but it meant a lot in my early career when I left my comfort zone to study and live abroad for the first time. #2 Knowing what you do not want can be as valuable as knowing what you want – staying away from what doesn’t interest you will eventually direct you to what does. #3 If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room! I do not recall where I initially read it, but this phrase still resonates with me. Surround yourself with smart and hard-working people from whom you can learn and grow.
5. Tell us what happened to you after you left CeMM?
After CeMM, I moved to the US for a postdoctoral fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH), affiliated with Harvard Medical School. At BCH, I continued to use mass spectrometry for clinical proteomics research. After four long (and cold) years in Boston, I decided to move to (way warmer) California and join PrognomiQ Inc., a mass spectrometry-focused multi-omics cancer diagnostic startup based in San Mateo.
6. What book do you have on your night table at the moment?
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson.
7. What is the last song you heard?
Mojoj Majci from Prljavo Kazalište (Dirty Theater) – it was from streaming a live performance of Prljavo Kazalište welcoming Croatian soccer team back to Zagreb with a bronze medal from the World Cup 2022 in Qatar!
8. Any message you would like to give to the CeMMies or a former colleague?
I’ll do my best to attend the next reunion :)
Dijana Vitko completed her PhD in 2017 under the supervision of Dr. Keiryn L. Bennett, a former head of the Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Department at CeMM. She focused on mass spectrometry-based protein quantitation and post-translational modifications related to viral infection, immunity, and cancer. After CeMM, Dijana started a postdoctoral fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH) / Harvard Medical School. At BCH, she investigated urine biomarkers related to the risk of urinary tract infection and kidney damage. At the end of 2021, Dijana joined a diagnostic start-up company based in California - PrognomiQ Inc., where she now focuses on large-scale muti-omics studies for the discovery of early-stage cancer biomarkers in blood.