What do you do?
My job is related to animal infectious diseases caused by viral infections with particular interest in animal health through control and prevention strategies based on vaccination programmes. My current job aims to investigate the mechanisms of pathogenicity of infectious bronchitis, a viral disease that affects poultry and other avian species, thus being able to provide effective vaccines and updated strategies for prevention of virus spreading heavily impacting poultry industry in developed and under developed countries. Getting to know the virus genes and targets responsible for pathogenicity while taking into account those that provide protection triggering an immune response, my approach is to manipulate virus genome to generate a recombinant virus potentially viable as a candidate vaccine, thus able to confer protection from disease while reducing its virulence.
Why did you choose this field?
During my degree study in veterinary medicine I became very interested in infectious diseases, looking at pathogenesis and role of diagnosis, vaccination strategies, prevention and control measures in managing diseases that would affect pets or livestock, both impacting dramatically in their health and in the whole society. I discovered the One Health strategy as a natural drive in the job I would like to do. During a training supported by the Erasmus placement programme I had the chance to have a hands-on experience in research in a lab working on viruses and that made me realise I wanted to explore this field more further on. I looked at researchers in these field with great esteem and I was completely fascinated by a woman working in this field - Ilaria Capua -that started representing for me a role model. I did my PhD in Animal Health and Zoonosis and I moved on with my current job as postdoctoral research scientist, motivated by the possibility to contribute to disease control and prevention of virus infections, therefore improving animal health and encouraging more efficient strategy to prevent diseases.
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I wish I had more experiences during my degree to explore areas where vets work that would give me a better awareness of the existing fields and of the work of vets around the world. Even not taking those fields into consideration further on those opportunities could have helped me in deciphering the reality and pose things in a clearer perspective, opening my mind in many ways. For instance, I truly regret loosing the opportunity during my degree to train as a vet in the Kruger National park in South Africa, that would be an amazing experience even though not related to my future career.
Why do you love working in STEM?
I love working in STEM because is a field where scientific principles are coupled with real necessities thus supporting our society in building up better conditions of life. Obviously, I am not saving the world from diseases every morning but every day I am motivated in carrying on my research motivated by the curiosity to know what is behind and how I can get to my goal that is scientifically intriguing for me. Research requires a lot of patience and determination but if the goal is clear can be highly motivational and exciting.
Best advice for next generation?
Try to get as many experiences as possible during your education and later on. Many fields in STEM are exciting areas to explore and there could be one perfectly matching for you. Do not preclude yourself any option and challenge yourself as many opportunities arise while doing.
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
"Life need not be easy, provided only that it is not empty.” - Lise Meitner