Where were you based before joining the Crick?
Before I started at the Crick I was working at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. I was based at the Addenbrooke’s Hospital site, which is part of clinical school of Cambridge university.
There I worked as a deputy of the Research Instrumentation and Cell Service (RICS) for 7 years. My role primarily consisted of helping take care of growing cell cultures, giving advice to researchers about their cell cultures, troubleshooting any issues that came up and overseeing quality control.
Tell us about Cell Services at the Crick
Cell Services is one of the Crick’s core Science Technology Platforms (STPs). We support researchers around the building whenever they need to use cells and cell cultures for their research, using our expertise to help them grow and use their cells effectively and efficiently.
Some of the techniques we help with include collecting and keeping continuous and finite cell lines, storing cells at extremely cold temperatures, and growing cultures of cells when they are needed for an experiment. We also provide quality checks to ensure that the genetic makeup of cells is what we expect it to be. It’s important to know whether the cells have undergone any significant mutations or other changes, as it could have a detrimental impact on the results of an experiment.
In the coming months and years, I’m hoping to incorporate more modern techniques into our existing toolkit so we can give researchers the best possible foundation for their experiments. I’d love to give researchers access to even more services that they wouldn’t be able to find in other institutions.
What attracted you to the Crick initially?
I think what attracted me most is just how big this place is, and the fact that I really do believe it’s the best institute in Europe. There’s a huge amount of diversity in the kinds of research being done here, and there is a genuinely strong sense of community.
While I was at Cambridge I used to occasionally come down to the Crick to meet with collaborators, and I was always struck by how dynamic a workplace it is. You can really see things happening here, and having all these different people under one roof removes some of the barriers to collaboration that exist in places where different departments might be spread across an entire city.
It kind of reminds me of being in a big sweet shop when I was a kid. It’s overwhelming, but in a good way.
Any projects you’ve started work on?
At the moment my number one priority is to get a better understanding of what researchers would like to see us start doing/do more of. Ultimately we are a service, and we should be driven by what the researchers want, so for me it’s important to know: What is the next question, the next challenge? And then to understand how we can support making that happen.
How has the first month been?
It’s been amazing. I’ve met with a lot of people, I’ve felt welcomed, I’ve felt accepted by the community and I feel very well supported. I’ve managed to talk to many people from other STPs, and in just my first couple of months I already have a lot of ideas for things we might be able to try, if we have the capacity. It’s been very busy, but also very exciting.
Of course, I’ve also had a wonderful time getting to know my new team. The more I talk to the people around me, the more I realise the sheer breadth of expertise this team has.
In an alternate universe, if you weren’t working in science, what would you be doing?
I used to develop my own photography, and I also used to paint, so I would probably have been an artist of some sort. I actually came very close to pursuing art professionally instead of science.
In Italy University is public, so competition to get in can be quite tough and requires you to pass an exam in the subject you wish to study. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to go into biology or the arts, so I took both exams and told myself that the first test I heard back about, if I passed, would be the one I would pick. It just so happened that biology was first – but I also ended up passing arts, so it could have gone either way!
If neither of those had worked out, I also keep bees, so maybe that’s another possibility.