Assoc. Prof. Urban Šilc, Ph. D.

Associate Professor at master degree study programme (2nd cycle) Earth and Environmental Sciences and doctoral degree study programme (3rd cycle) Environmental and Regional Studies at Postgraduate School ZRC SAZU.

Course principal:



Assist. Prof. Paula Pongrac, Ph. D.

Assistant Professor at study programme (3rd cycle) Environmental and Regional Studies at Postgraduate School ZRC SAZU.

Course principal:

  • Environmental and Regional Studies (doctoral study 3rd level)
    • Elective courses of the Biodiversity and ecology module



  • Diploma thesis (Biology), University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (2004)
  • Ph.D. (Biology), University of Ljubljana, Slovenia (2009)


Research interests

  • Mineral nutrition of plants: uptake and accumulation of elements often lacking in animal diets (Fe, Zn, Ca, Se, I, Cu in Mg).
  • Localisation of elements: the use of XRF-based techniques to determine distribution of elements and ligand environment of these elements in plant tissue.
  • Hyperaccumulation and tolerance to heavy metals: tolerance mechanisms in plants accumulating extraordinary concentration of elements (mainly heavy metals).


Main visiting appointments

  • Marie Curie Intraeuropean Fellowship, Ecological Science, James Hutton Institute, Dundee, UK (1.5.2015-30.4.2017)
  • Humboldt postdoctoral researcher, University of Bayreuth (Department of Plant Physiology), Bayreuth, Germany (1.4.2014-31.4.2015).
  • 12× 4-6 day research project at synchrotrons: Elettra (Trieste, Italy; 2008, 2009, 2014, 2019), ESRF (Grenoble, France; 2013, 2014, 2015, 2015, 2016, 2016), APS (Chicago, USA; 2015), Diamond (Didcot, UK; 2019)
  • PhD research, International Culture Collection of (Vesicular) Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, ZDA (5.7.-10.8.2008).
  • PhD research, Department of Plant Physiology, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain (5.1. -31.3.2006).

Selected publications

  • Pongrac, P., Kelemen, M., Likar, M., Vavpetič, P., Pelicon, P., et al. (2020) Effect of phosphorus supply on root traits of two Brassica oleracea L. genotypes. BMC Plant Biology 20, 368.
  • Cominelli, E., Galimberti, M., Pongrac, P., Landoni, M., Losa, A., Paolo, D., Daminati, M. G., Bollini, R., Cichy, K. A., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Sparvoli, F. (2020) Calcium redistribution contributes to the hard-to-cook phenotype and increases pha-l lectin thermal stability in common bean low phytic acid 1 mutant seeds. Food Chemistry 321, 126680.
  • Pongrac, P., Fischer, S., Thompson, J., Wright, G., White, P. J. Early responses of Brassica oleracea roots to zinc supply under sufficient and sub-optimal phosphorus supply. Frontiers in Plant Science 10, 1654.
  • Detterbeck, A, Pongrac, P, Persson, D, Vogel-Mikuš, K, Kelemen, M, Vavpetič, P, Pelicon, P, Arčon, I, Husted, S, Schjoerring, J. K., Clemens, S. (2020) Temporal and spatial patterns of zinc and iron accumulation during barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) grain development. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 12, 12229–12240.
  • Höreth, S., Pongrac, P., Debeljak, M., Vogel-Mikuš, K. Pečovnik, . Vavpetič, P., Pelicon, P., Arčon, I., et al. (2020) Arabidopsis halleri shows hyperbioindicator behaviour for Pb and leaf Pb accumulation spatially separated from Zn. New Phytologist 226, 492-506.
  • Pongrac, P., Arčon, I., Castillo Michel, H., Vogel-Mikuš, K. (2020) Mineral element composition in grain of awned and awnletted wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) cultivars: tissue-specific iron speciation and phytate and non-phytate ligand ratio (2020). Plants 9,  79.
  • Pongrac, P., Tolrà, R., Hajiboland, R., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Kelemen, M., Vavpetič, P., Pelicon, P., Barcelo, J., Regvar, M., Poschenrieder, C. (2020). Contrasting allocation of magnesium, calcium and manganese in leaves of tea (Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze) plants may explain their different extraction efficiency into tea. Food and Chemical Toxicology 135, 110974.
  • Pongrac, P., Serra, T.S., Castillo-Michel, H., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Arčon, I., Kelemen, M., Jenčič, B., Kavčič, A., Villafort Carvalho, M.T., Aarts, M.G.M. (2018) Cadmium associates with oxalate in calcium oxalate crystals and competes with calcium for translocation to stems in the Cd bioindicator Gomphrena claussenii. Metallomics 10, 1576-1584.
  • Pongrac, P., Baltrenaite, E., Vavpetič, P., Kelemen, M., Kladnik, A., Budič, B., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Regvar, M., Baltrenas, P., Pelicon, P. (2019) Tissue-specific element profiles in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) needles. Trees 33, 91-101.
  • Pongrac, P., Mcnicol, J.W., Lilly, A., Thompson, J. A., Wright, G., Hillier, S., White, P.J. (2018) Mineral element composition of cabbage as affected by soil type and phosphorus and zinc fertilisation. Plant and Soil, in press.
  • White, P.J., Pongrac, P., Sneddon, C.C., Thompson, J., Wright, G. (2018) Limits to the biofortification of leafy brassicas with zinc. Agriculture 8(3), 1-14.
  • Ilunga Kabeya, F., Pongrac, P., Lange, B., Faucon, M-P., van Elteren, J.T., Šala, M., Šelih, V. S., Vanden Eeckhoudt, E., Verbruggen, N. (2018) Tolerance and accumulation of cobalt in three species of Haumaniastrum and the influence of copper. Environmental and Experimental Botany 149, 27-33.
  • Detterbeck, A., Pongrac, P., Rensch, S., Reuscher, S., Pečovnik, M., Vavpetič, P., Pelicon, P., Holzheu, S., Krämer, U., Clemens, S. (2016) Spatially resolved analysis of variation in barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) grain micronutrient accumulation. New Phytologist 211, 1241-1254.
  • Pongrac, P., Potisek, M., Fraś, A., Likar, M., Budič, B., Myszka, K., Boros, D., Nečemer, M., Kelemen, M., Vavpetič, P., Pelicon, P., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Regvar, M., Kreft, I. (2016) Composition of mineral elements and bioactive compounds in Tartary buckwheat and wheat sprouts as affected by natural mineral-rich water. Journal of Cereal Science 69, 9-16.
  • Pongrac, P., Scheers, N., Sandberg, A-S., Potisek, M., Arčon, I., Kreft, I., Kump, P., Vogel-Mikuš, K. (2016) The effects of hydrothermal processing and germination on Fe speciation and Fe bioaccessibility to human intestinal Caco-2 cells in Tartary buckwheat. Food Chemistry 199, 782-790.
  • Villafort Carvalho, M.T., Pongrac, P., Mumm, R., van Arkel, J., Aelst, A.V., Jeromel, L., Vavpetič, P., Pelicon, P., Aarts, M.G.M. (2015) Gomphrena claussenii, a novel metal-hypertolerant bioindicator species, sequesters cadmium, but not zinc, in vacuolar oxalate crystals. New Phytologist 208(3), 763-775.
  • Vogel-Mikuš, K., Pongrac, P., Pelicon, P. (2014) Micro-PIXE elemental mapping for ionome studies of crop plants. International Journal of PIXE 24(3), 217-233.
  • Pongrac, P., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Jeromel, L., Vavpetič, P., Pelicon, P., Kaulich, B., Gianoncelli, A., Regvar, M., Eichert, D., Kreft, I. (2013) Spatial distribution of mineral elements in tartary buckwheat (Fagopyrum tataricum) grain as revealed by micro-imaging techniques. Food Research International 54, 125-131.
  • Pongrac, P., Kreft, I., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Regvar, M., Germ, M., Vavpetič, P., Grlj, N., Jeromel, L., Eichert, D., Budič, B., Pelicon, P. (2013) Relevance for food sciences of quantitative spatially resolved elemental profile investigations in wheat (Triticum aestivum) grain. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 10, 20130296.
  • Germ, M., Pongrac, P., Regvar, M., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Stibilj, V., Jaćimović, R., Kreft, I. (2013) Impact of double (Zn and Se) biofortification of wheat plants on concentrations of elements in grains. Plant, Soil and Environment 7, 316-321.
  • Lyubenova, L., Pongrac, P., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Kukec Mezek, G., Vavpetič, P., Grlj, N., Regvar, M., Pelicon, P., Schröder, P. (2013) The fate of arsenic, cadmium and lead in Typha latifolia a case study on the applicability of micro-PIXE in plant ionomics. Journal of Hazardous Materials 248/249, 371-378.
  • Lyubenova, L., Pongrac, P., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Kukec Mezek, G., Vavpetič, P., Grlj, N., Kump, P., Nečemer, M., Regvar, M., Pelicon, P., Schröder, P. (2012) Localization and quantification of Pb and nutrients in Typha latifolia by micro-PIXE. Metallomics 4, 333-341.
  • Pongrac, P., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Regvar, M., Vavpetič, P., Pelicon, P., Kreft, I. (2011) Improved lateral discrimination in screening the elemental composition of buckwheat grain by micro-PIXE. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 59(4), 1275-1280.
  • Regvar, M., Eichert, D., Kaulich, B., Gianoncelli, A., Pongrac, P., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Kreft, I. (2011) New insights into globoids of protein storage vacuoles in wheat aleurone using synchrotron soft X-ray microscopy. Journal of Experimental Botany 62(11), 3929-3939.
  • Tolrà, R., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Hajiboland, R., Kump, P., Pongrac, P., Kaulich, B., Gianoncelli, A., Babin, V., Barceló, J., Regvar, M., Poschenrieder, C. (2011) Localization of aluminium in tea (Camellia sinensis) leaves using low energy X-ray fluorescence spectro-microscopy. Journal of Plant Research 124(1), 165-172.
  • Pongrac, P., Zhao, F. J., Razinger, J., Zrimec, A., Regvar, M. (2009) Physiological responses to Cd and Zn in two Cd/Zn hyperaccumulating Thlaspi species. 2009. Environmental and Experimental Botany 66(3) 479-486.
  • Kaulich, B., Giannoncelli, A., Beran, A., Eichert, D., Kreft, I., Pongrac, P., Regvar, M., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Kiskinova, M.P. (2009) Low-energy X-ray flourescence microscopy opening new opportunities for bio-related research. Journal of the Royal Society Interface (6), S641-S647.
  • Pongrac, P., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Regvar, M., Tolrà, R., Poschenrieder, C., Barceló, J. (2008) Glucosinolate profiles change during the life cycle and mycorrhizal colonization in a Cd/Zn hyperaccumulator Thlaspi praecox (Brassicaceae). Journal of Chemical Ecology 34(8), 1038-1044.
  • Pongrac, P., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Kump, P., Nečemer, M., Tolrà, R., Poschenrieder, C., Barceló, J., Regvar, M. (2007) Changes in elemental uptake and arbuscular mycorrhizal colonisation during the life cycle of Thlaspi praecox Wulfen. Chemosphere 69(10), 1602-1609.
  • Vogel-Mikuš, K., Pongrac, P., Kump, P., Nečemer, M., Simčič, J., Pelicon, P., Budnar, M., Povh, B., Regvar, M. (2007) Localisation and quantification of elements within seeds of Cd/Zn hyperaccumulator Thlaspi praecox by micro-PIXE. Environmental Pollution, 147, 50-59.
  • Tolrà, R., Pongrac, P., Poschenrieder, C., Vogel-Mikuš, K., Regvar, M., Barceló, J. (2006) Distinctive effects of cadmium on glucosinolate profiles in Cd hyperaccumulator Thlaspi praecox and non-hyperaccumulator Thlaspi arvense. Plant and Soil 288, 333-341.
  • Vogel-Mikuš, K., Pongrac, P., Kump, P., Nečemer, M., Regvar, M. (2006) Colonisation of a Zn, Cd and Pb hyperaccumulator Thlaspi praecox Wulfen with indigenous arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal mixture induces changes in heavy metal and nutrient uptake. Environmental Pollution 139, 362-371.