FELLOWSHIPS

American Slovenian Education Foundation

The American Slovenian Education Foundation (ASEF) fellowship program provides student financial and other support, allowing fellows to focus on their research. Fellowships build lasting relationships between ASEF and academic institutions. The purpose of the fellowship is to strengthen research and study exchange between Slovenia and the US with the objective of giving talented Slovenian students the ability to realize their potential to the fullest.

Working With

Meet The 2018 Fellows

Ana Reberc


Ana Reberc completed her BSc in Psychology at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana. At the moment she is doing a double master's degree in Sociology of Culture and Psychology. She is a teaching assistant at the department of social psychology and a student librarian at the psychological library. Her scholarly research focuses on epistemology of psychology, critical psychology and cognitive sociology. She is also interested in primatology and African studies. Besides her studies she is an active journalist, author of a psychological radio show Psihoteka and a co-author of a feminist radio show Sector F on Radio Student. In her eclectic library there are many books by her role model Angela Y. Davis and favourite authors Amos Tutuola and Vladimir Bartol. She has a student job at the Slovenian Cinematheque and is a TV series enthusiast. In the summer of 2018 she will be researching transitional justice with professor Peter Verovšek at the University of Sheffield.

Lara Gubeljak


Lara is a second year medical student at the RWTH Aachen University. She is passionate about molecular medicine and will work with prof. Križaj at the University of Utah on corneal pain and mechanosensing from a molecular and physiological perspective. This is her first major research project, so she is especially grateful for this opportunity. In her spare time she likes to play the piano, dance and wander around. She has a weak spot for living room concerts and cakes.

Luka Lapajne


Luka Lapajne is a second year Ph.D. student at the University of Ljubljana, Medical faculty. He is a medical doctor who is currently working as a young researcher at the Eye hospital in Ljubljana. He wants to specialize in ophthalmology and become an eye surgeon. His current research is focused on corneal diseases. In collaboration with Jožef Stefan Institute, he is hoping to discover new functional and morphological aspects of those diseases and contribute to better understanding of the pathologies and ultimately new treatment options. He is also a part of an interdisciplinary team that is introducing new stem cell-based therapy at the Eye hospital in Ljubljana. During his stay in the USA, he will be working with prof. David Križaj, who is a world-renowned researcher in the field of ophthalmology. Grateful to have been given this opportunity he is eager to make the most of it and is confident that this visit will bring him significant academic growth that could shape his future research career. In his free time Luka likes different sports. He is passionate about skiing and cannot imagine a winter without a week in a proper alpine ski resort.

Blaž Leban


Blaž Leban is a second-year postgraduate Physics student at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of mathematics and physics. This summer, he will be joining prof. Andrej Prša’s research group at the Villanova University in Philadelphia, which is mainly focused on computational astrophysics. He decided to study physics in high school when popular scientific books about the universe and cosmology totally amazed him but was later redirected to particle physics. He is currently working on his master's thesis about neutrino physics and the seesaw mechanism. Since he is not tied to a particular field for the future, he would like to deepen his knowledge of the behavior of star systems and try to build realistic computer models of them. In his free time, he tries to spend as much time as possible close the space in nature, where he likes to run, hike, play football, volleyball and participate in other sports. He is also a rally fan and is enthusiastic about ultimate frisbee. He is a tidy and well- organized person. He is very grateful to ASEF for this fellowship.

Jan Zavodnik


Jan Zavodnik is a graduate student at the Faculty for Mechanical Engineering, at the University of Ljubljana. In the past he worked on a project of modeling and predicting the response of thermally activated artificial muscles made from metamaterials. He developed a model describing the shrinking response of coiled twisted nylon beam, enabling a thorough understanding of the process. He received a “Prešeren” award for outstanding young researchers for his bachelor’s degree work.

He will spend this summer at Princeton collaborating with Professor Andrej Košmrlj working on a project of lung development from the mechanics standpoint. He will be trying to develop a model, which would help to better understand, how the lungs and other organs develop in a human or animal body. Besides his university and project work Jan enjoys data science, flying model planes, hiking and swimming. He likes to spend his free time outside in nature and take romantic walks with his girlfriend.

Jakob Robnik


Jakob is a second year undergraduate physics student at University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. In high school he recieved Bronze Medals at the International Olympiad in Astronomy and Astrophysics and International Olympiad in Physics. He is especially keen to learn as much as possible about nonlinear dynamics, cosmology and topology. His current research is focused on heat transfer in one dimensional lattices. He will spend his summer with Professor Seljak in UC Berkeley where he will work on numerical simulations in cosmology. When he is not thinking about abstract spaces or reading fantasy, he commits to his other passions, alpinism, rock climbing, skiing, football and any other sport.

Petra Kukanja


Petra Kukanja is a first-year postgraduate student at Uppsala University. After completing her BSc degree in Biotechnology from the University of Ljubljana, she was introduced to the fundamental metazoan transcriptional mechanisms under the Barborič Laboratory at the University of Helsinki. There, she was given an opportunity to participate in a project investigating the importance of RNA polymerase II promoter-proximal pause release in transcriptional response to genotoxic stress. She is currently enrolled in the MSc Program in Medical Research with a focus on molecular medicine. Her research interests are open to exploring possible diagnostic, prognostic, and treatment options through comprehending and manipulating various disease-causing mechanisms. Petra will be spending the summer in prof. Matija Peterlin's laboratory at UCSF. She is excited to deepen her knowledge in the field of gene regulation and learn more about HIV gene expression and latency. In her free time, Petra volunteers at the Scout Association of Slovenia. Devoted to music she also completed her violin studies at Conservatory of Music and Ballet Ljubljana. Finally, she can not complain about switching cold Nordic winters for endless Californian summers.

Barbara Ikica


Barbara is a PhD student of Mathematics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, University of Ljubljana, working in the field of evolutionary game theory applied to evolving graphs. After her research visit to ETH Zurich, where she focused on modelling the propagation of news, she is very excited about the opportunity to visit Prof. Jure Leskovec at Stanford University. Aside from research, she enjoys the challenge of learning foreign languages, exploring new places on her bike, and spending time with friends and family.

Peter Kmecl


Peter Kmecl is an undergraduate student in Electrical Engineering at the University of Ljubljana. His particular interests are robotics, automation, and embedded systems. After developing simpler device-building and programming tasks for a hobby, he has been working at the Faculty's Laboratory for Metrology and Quality as a student, collaborating in a number of projects, most notably in the construction of optical magnetometers for the Jožef Stefan Institute.

Peter will spend this summer working with professor Domen Novak at The University of Wyoming, learning about working methods in an advanced research environment and getting to know cutting-edge technology in rehabilitation robotics. Peter is an avid sailor and skier. In addition, he likes to cook and – obviously – build and program various electronic devices in his free time.

Kristjan Nemac


Kristjan Nemac is a young researcher at the Science and Research Centre Koper and a Ph.D. student at the University of Primorska. He graduated and received his master's degree in the Sociology of Culture at the University of Ljubljana. In his Ph.D. thesis, he is studying the effects of globalization on local communities, with the focus on the port’s involvement in global competition and the local environment. He is going to spend this summer working with prof. Nives Dolšak at the University of Washington, Seattle. This visit will give him the opportunity to analyze and compare two different cultural and political realities and the responses of the ports of Koper and Seattle to the globalization processes.

He actively participated in different organizations within which he critically analyzed the modern society and sought solutions for social change. Working with the research group in the field of environmental policy will give him a better comprehension of sustainable development strategies that advocate the integrated social development of local communities.

Lucija Dežan


Lucija Dežan is currently finishing her second year at the University of Maribor, Faculty of Arts. She graduated in Sociology and English Language and Literature. During her undergraduate and postgraduate studies, Lucija participated in several research teams dealing with the attitudes of youth, informal practices and tactical maneuvering in Balkan societies, and bicycle culture among local students. As her MSc thesis focuses on informal practices that help youth towards their first employment, she will spend the fall with prof. Ana Bračič, an expert in community engagement, to cooperate with her at the University of Oklahoma. The ASEF Fellowship offered her an opportunity to help with exit poll interviews during an election in the fall in the Oklahoma City. Lucija is grateful to be given this opportunity and she believes that the ASEF Fellowship will allow her to broaden her research and will represent an important step on her career path. Lucija is also very passionate about equal opportunities and outside her academic pursuits; she likes to travel, she is a mentor of workshops where children combine robotics and LEGO bricks and loves board games.

Marko Rus


Marko is an undergraduate student of Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of Ljubljana. His research interests are algorithms, data structures and deep learning. This summer he will be working with prof. Dawn Song at the University of California, Berkeley.

In his free time Marko is working in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Jožef Stefan Institute. In the past Marko was part of the PKP project Solar Power Forecasting, participated the European Study Group with Industry, won a Deanís Commendation for Academic Excellence and received many awards from programming contests. Besides all this Marko finds enough time for other activities, he plays soccer, reads a lot, likes to go kayaking and loves to play trumpet.

Matevž Marinčič


Matevž Marinčič is a second cycle physics student at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, University of Ljubljana. His main research interest is soft matter physics, particularly active matter, photonic crystals, and metamaterials. He worked on a research project on cholesteric liquid crystal microlasers. He also likes to share his enthusiasm for physics with others by tutoring, collaborating on science competitions and other projects. Currently, he works on active nematics, which is the main topic for his master's thesis.

This summer, Matevž will be visiting prof. Andrej Košmrlj at the Princeton University, where he will work on periodic elastic materials. Based on their geometry, these materials transmit or reflect specific vibrational modes, making them useful as acoustic metamaterials.

Besides being a researcher, Matevž has been an active member of his local scouting society since he was 10. This coincides with his love for nature and the outdoors - he likes hiking, trekking, mountaineering, rock climbing, skiing, or just having a picnic. He also combines these activities with his passion for traveling and exploring new cultures.

Anja Sotosek


Anja works as a teaching assistant at the Department for Prosthetic Dentistry, at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana. In the course of her studies, she has participated in a research project in periodontology that earned her the Prešeren award of the Faculty of Medicine for research achievement and attended various international congresses and workshops. After obtaining her dental degree and completing her internship, she gained practical experience working as a general dentist for a year and a half.

As part of the ASEF fellowship program, Anja will be visiting prof. Janina Golob Deeb at the Virginia Commonwealth University, with the intention of expanding her knowledge. She is eager to take up the challenge through this research opportunity and hopes to make a positive contribution to prof. Golob Deeb’s team. In her spare time she enjoys cooking, travelling to sunny destinations and reading spy novels.

Lojze Zust


Lojze Zust is an undergraduate student of Computer and Information Science at the University of Ljubljana. He is passionate about machine learning and computer vision and is currently finishing his thesis on image analysis using deep learning.

Lojze has worked on multiple AI research projects at the university as well as in the R&D department of the healthcare company Marand. He is excited about expanding his knowledge to other intriguing areas of artificial intelligence. This summer, he is looking forward to visiting prof. Jure Leskovec and joining his research group at Stanford University.

In his free time, Lojze loves climbing, spending time outdoors, playing his favorite songs on the guitar and hanging out with his friends.

Aleks Smolkovič


Aleks Smolkovič is originally from Lendava, Slovenia. He has earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Ljubljana. During his studies he developed an immense interest in the field of High Energy Physics. He complemented the knowledge gained at the faculty by taking summer internships at the Department of Theoretical Physics, Jožef Stefan Institute, and by attending specialized schools and conferences both in Slovenia and abroad.

He recently joined the Department of Theoretical Physics as a PhD student. He is researching various phenomenological consequences of physics beyond the Standard Model, connected to the decays of B mesons and interactions between the top quark and the Higgs boson. With the support of ASEF, for which he is very grateful, he is going to visit professor Jure Zupan at the University of Cincinnati.

Besides doing research Aleks also enjoys being a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. When not at the office he likes to spend his time with friends and family, especially enjoying good movies at the cinema, traveling and exploring new places.

Nina Mrzelj


Nina Mrzelj is a MSc student of Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of Ljubljana and is currently doing an Erasmus exchange at University of Technology in Vienna.

What Nina likes most in her field of studies, is its interdisciplinarity and the endless possibilities of application of gained knowledge. She is interested in solving real life problems, using mathematics and algorithms. Her research interests include machine learning, data science and network analysis. In the past, she worked on different projects: predicting the future trends of advertisement campaigns, classifying bacterial DNA sequences into taxonomic ranks, using data to improve user experience...

This summer, Nina will collaborate with prof. Jure Leskovec at Stanford University. ASEF fellowship will allow her to work with world top scientists, while also experiencing new culture. In her free time Nina loves to travel and spend time outdoors - hiking, climbing or just trying some new activities. She believes that life begins at the end of one's comfort zone and that is why she is always looking for challenges and adventures, both in her professional and personal life.

Rok Razpotnik


Rok Razpotnik is a Ph.D. student of Biomedicine at the Institute of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ljubljana. His research focuses on investigating the role of non-coding RNAs, especially circular RNAs, in hepatocellular carcinoma. He completed his BSc and MSc program in Biochemistry at the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, University of Ljubljana, where he also received recognition for scholarly achievements and the Prešeren award of the Faculty for his master`s thesis. By attending Erasmus+ program at the University of Ghent, Belgium, and other courses and academic projects, he further improved his knowledge. Rok is looking forward to spending his summer at the laboratory of prof. dr. Jernej Murn at the University of California, Riverside, where he will acquire new knowledge and experience in the field of RNA biology. He believes this experience will elevate his further research work and bring it to a new level. Rok is very passionate about traveling, discovering new cultures and loves to spend his free time outdoors, cycling, hiking, and jogging. However, after a long day, he enjoys nothing more than having drinks and a good laugh with his friends or watching a great alternative movie. He is honored and very grateful to ASEF for this opportunity.

Erik Janežič


Erik Janežič graduated in Biochemistry from Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology in Ljubljana. He has always been fascinated by the human brain and mechanisms that govern our intelligence. This is reflected in his bachelor thesis, where he explored subcellular localization of newly discovered organelles, lipid droplets, in rat astrocytes. During his studies, his interests expanded from biology to more abstract theoretical views of intelligence, and for his future career path, he decided to combine his interests for biology with computer science by enrolling in the Computer Science MSc program at the Faculty of Computer and Information Science in Ljubljana. He is now finishing his first year of his master's degree studies, focusing mainly on artificial intelligence and machine learning. He is fascinated by the theory of hierarchical temporal memory and plans to focus his research and master thesis in that direction.

This summer he will have the opportunity to work with prof. Sanja Fidler at the University of Toronto, where he will expand his knowledge in the domains of computer vision and natural language processing.

Coming from a small town under the Alps, he naturally likes mountaineering and skiing. During the summer he seeks an occasional scuba dive somewhere along the Croatian coast. When the time is scarce he relaxes by going out for a run and playing basketball or PC games with friends.

Petra Janež


Petra Janež recently finished a PhD in Economics. During her PhD study she made research visits to the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her MSc and BSc degree in Economics from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. In her PhD dissertation she examined the impact of the real estate tax policy on migration at local and regional level in Slovenia with empirical modeling. She continues her research on how to attract new companies, capital and people to the country and on the other hand how to keep them. She is currently extending her knowledge at the Slovenian Institute of Auditors. She will visit Prof. Urška Velikonja to cooperate with her at the Georgetown University, Washington DC and she is honored to be given this opportunity. In her free time, she enjoys sports like skiing, playing tennis, biking, hiking and other activities.