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#TalentiUniSR: Eleonora Dondossola

14 May 2019

A former student of the very first year of the UniSR Biotechnology Degree Course, now a researcher in the United States and author of numerous scientific articles published in the most prestigious international journals: Eleonora Dondossola is this month testimonial of the #TalentiUniSR. After graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree and a PhD obtained at UniSR, she moved to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, USA, one of the best centers for the study and treatment of cancer. Athletic and eclectic (she has always practiced many sports, including artistic gymnastics, trampoline, volleyball, athletics and swimming), in 2017 Eleonora was included among the youngest 100 Italian experts in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), an initiative promoted by the Pavia Observatory and funded by the European Commission and the Bracco Foundation, with the patronage of RAI, the national order of journalists and the Ministry of Equal Opportunities. Since 2014 she has been receiving financial support for her research from various organizations, including the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Rolanette and Berdon Lawrence Bone Disease Program of Texas, NCI/Sage Bionetworks and the Prostate Cancer Spore. Proud of her “Italianity”, a mixture of determination and creativity that her US colleagues recognize her, Eleonora states: “The education at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University gave me very solid intellectual and experimental foundations, which allowed me to be competitive within the international scientific community since the beginning of my career”.


Eleonora Dondossola

Your University Studies

I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Biotechnology, followed by a Master’s Degree in Molecular and Cellular Medical Biotechnology and an International Research Doctorate in Cellular and Molecular Biology in Oncology, all at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University. Since 2008, I have been teaching Biochemistry, and since 2012, History of Cancer Research at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University

Why you enrolled at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University

For the prestige of the research center, where I was dreaming to perform my own experiments on the development and progression of tumors

What opportunities our University has given you

Certainly to perform many experiments! Indeed, for about eight years I worked in Prof. Angelo Corti’s Laboratory to pursue all the research activities related to my undergraduate and graduate studies. As a result, I published several works in prestigious scientific journals. More generally, education at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University gave me some very solid foundations, which allowed me to be competitive at an international level since the beginning of my career

What you currently deal with

After finishing my studies, I moved to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, USA, one of the best centers for the study and treatment of cancer, where, for over 7 years, I have been investigating the mechanisms of metastatic prostate tumor to the bone. Although primary prostate tumors are now treated with a very high success rate, when the disease spreads to other organs (mainly to the skeletal system) the chances of curing it are drastically reduced: it is therefore very important to better understand how this phenomenon occurs to further improve its treatment. Specifically, in my research I use advanced multiphoton microscopy systems coupled with tissue engineering to monitor the progression of the disease and  I dedicate many efforts to find innovative therapeutic approaches and understand how to make available strategies more effective. In addition to this system, my team developed a three-dimensional model of engineered bone, in vitro. Futhermore, as an alternative research line, I study a fibrotic process known as  “foreign body response” and how to reduce it pharmacologically

The strong point of studying at San Raffaele

To learn from/to confront with high-level professionals in an environment where there is a strong attention to the individual student. Furthermore, the practical research activity carried out individually by each student in the didactic laboratories for about a month/semester is one of the jewels of the university and prepares to face more consciously the experimental work pursued in a real research laboratory

Your best quality

My determination has helped a lot to persevere in this job, in which unexpected outcomes can happen everytime and may prove you. Creativity is another aspect that pushed me to move forward, seeking unusual solutions to the problems encountered. My colleagues summarize these concepts with the word “Italianity”, a characteristic that I am very proud of

Favorite quote

Everyday life: Both destiny’s kisses and its dope-slaps illustrate an individual person’s basic personal powerlessness over the really meaningful events in his life: i.e. almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Psst that you usually can’t even hear because you’re in such a rush to or from something important you’ve tried to engineer – David Foster Wallace

Scientific: All models are wrong, but some are useful – Box and Draper

Your dream in the drawer

Waking up one morning and hearing from an announcement that cancer has been finally cured. Maybe also thanks to my contribution

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