Doc. Dr Paula Pongrac

Senior Research AssociateE-mail: Tel: +38651222963

Dr Pongrac’s initial interest in mineral nutrition of plants arose from her personal concerns for quality and safety of the food we eat. This guided her to start investigating uptake, transport and storage of mineral elements and toxic trace elements in a plant that can take up extraordinary amounts of Cd, Zn and Pb, first within her graduation thesis, and then for her PhD. Her first postdoc position was within an FP7 project enabling external users to gain access to a powerful but inadequately available technique for localising elements in plant tissues quantitatively. The second postdoc project involved evaluation of nutrient quality of grain and sprouts and was funded by the Slovenian Research Agency. The third project led Dr Pongrac to Germany with a prestigious Humboldt fellowship for postdoctoral researchers to work on quantification of Pb, Cd and Zn in plant tissues and studying mineral element distribution in grain of different barley genotypes. The fourth project took place in Scotland where, funded by Marie Curie Intraeuropean fellowship, Dr Pongrac studied interactions between P and Zn in crops. Reintegration into the Slovenian research landscape took place through funding by Slovene Human Resources Development and Scholarship Fund, which supported her as a visiting scientist at the University of Ljubljana, followed by a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Seal-of-Excellence project (funded by Slovenian Research Agency) devoted to acquiring technical independence in X-ray fluorescence-based analysis and spectra processing to create 3D model of elemental distribution in plant leaves (spinach). After this, Dr Pongrac joined nationally funded project studying spatial distribution of elements and metabolites in plants. Currently, Dr Pongrac is a principal investigator for a project entitled Lessons from nutrient-use-efficient plants to benefit dietary mineral intake.


  • univ. dipl. biology (University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, 2004)
  • PhD in Biology (University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty, 2009)


  • PhD Student (Young Researcher), Biotechnical Faculty, UL, 2004 – 2009
  • postdoc for EU FP7 Project 2270112, JSI, 2009-2010 (1/2)
  • researcher for programme group Biology of Plants, Biotechnical Faculty, 2009-2010 (1/2)
  • postdoc for EU FP7 Project 2270112, JSI, 2010-2012
  • postdoc project (ARRS; Z4-4113), Biotechnical Faculty, UL, 2012-2014
  • assistant professor for Plant Physiology, UL, 2013-2018
  • researcher for programme group Biology of Plants, Biotechnical Faculty, 2014
  • postdoc project (Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship), University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany; 2014-2015
  • postdoc project (Marie Curie fellowship, FP7), The James Hutton Institute, Dundee, UK, 2015-2017
  • visiting scientist (Ad futura fellowship), Biotechnical Faculty, UL 2017-2018
  • assistant professor for Plant Physiology, Biotechnical Faculty, UL, 2018-2023
  • principal investigator (Marie Skłodowska Curie Seal of Excellence, ARRS), JSI, 2018-2020
  • senior research associate, JSI, 2019-2024
  • researcher (ARRS; N1-0105), Biotechnical Faculty, UL, 2020-2021
  • principal investigator (ARRS; J4-3091), Biotechnical Faculty, UL, 2021-2024

Field of work

  • mineral nutrition of plants
  • tolerance of heavy metals in plants
  • X-ray-fluorescence-based imaging in plant biology


  • Jesenko Award, Ljubljana, 2010
  • National Fellowship »For Women in Science”, Ljubljana, 2009

Other projects


  • (2014 – 2015) Correlating translatome responses and element spatial distribution in the Zn hyperaccumulator Arabidopsis halleri cultivated in the presence of contrasting Zn supplies
  • (2015-2017) Zinc Interaction with Phosphorus in Root Uptake


  • (2012 – 2014) Z4-4113: Nutritional quality of sprouts of crop plants
  • (2018 – 2020) N7-077: Three-dimensional distribution of mineral elements in plant leaves
  • (2021 – 2024) J4-3091: Lessons from nutrient-use-efficient plants to benefit dietary mineral intake