2009: Bachelor Degree in Biology at the University of Pavia, Italy.
2011: Master Degree in Molecular biology and Genetics (in English) 110/110 cum laude at the University of Pavia, Italy.
2012: 3 years-AIRC predoctoral fellowship to work in the lab of Dr. Ennio Prosperi at the IGM-CNR of Pavia, Italy.
2015: Internship in the lab of Prof. Dr. Maria Cristina Cardoso at the Technische Universitaet of Darmstadt, Germany.
December 2015: PhD at the IUSS (Istituto Universitario Studi Superiori, Institute of Advances Studies) working in the lab of Dr. Ennio Prosperi, at the IGM-CNR of Pavia, on DNA repair systems and diseases.
2016: 3 years-AIRC postdoctoral fellowship to work in the lab of Dr. Ennio Prosperi.
2017: Marie Curie fellowship FP7 at the IRB Barcelona, working on a shared project on microtubule, mitosis and disease in the labs of Travis Stracker and Jens Luders.
2018: Marie Curie fellowship PROBIST working on microcephaly and brain size regulation at the labs of Travis Stracker and Jens Luders, at the IRB Barcelona, Spain.
• Member of the BIST Master thesis committee in July 2019 and 2020.
• Member of the PostDOC Council at the IRB Barcelona from 2017.
• Member of the PhD students mentoring program at IRB Barcelona.
• Organizer of the IRB Open Day in 2019.
• Organizer of the IRB Postdoctoral research symposium in 2018.
• 15 poster presentations at National and International Conferences
• 10 oral communications at national and International Conferences.
• Supervisor of more than 10 students, from Bachelor to PhD (thesis, Erasmus placements, internships).
Identify new candidate genes involved in brain size regulation and microcephaly
An increase in brain size and complexity was crucial during the human evolution, helping ancestors to develop survival strategies during the movement of populations from one continent to another. While between H. neanderthalensis and H. sapiens, brain size was mildly reduced, complexity was increased. The fully sequenced Neanderthal genome has become a powerful tool for dissecting the evolutionary changes that defined the development of the more complex brain of modern humans. Recent studies revealed that 31,389 new single-nucleotide changes became fixed in the H. sapiens genome, compared to ancestral Denisovans and Neanderthals. Among these nucleotide substitutions, 3,117 occur in regulatory regions, 32 in putative splice sites and 96 in the coding regions of around 40 proteins. Supporting the possibility that some of these mutations affect brain development, a number of these proteins are expressed in the ventricular zone, where neurons of the cerebral cortex are formed during fetal development, or have proposed roles at centrosomes or in mitotic spindle assembly. In addition, mutations in several of these genes have been directly linked to human neurodevelopmental disorders, such as microcephaly or lissencephaly.
During my postdoc I’ll focus on the phenotypic screening of some of the 40 genes carrying fixed changes between the Neanderthal and H. sapiens genomes in order to identify new genes involved in brain size regulation that could represent microcephaly candidate genes and to define their molecular functions. We will look for typical features that we can find in microcephaly and understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms that can lead to a disease. In particular, we will focus on the DNA damage, cell cycle arrest and centrosome structure and functionality. Since many microcephalic genes are also involved in the cilia structure and functions we will investigate ciliogenesis in our cellular model.