Giacomo is a postdoc, antibody immunologist, at the Jenner Institute of the University of Oxford: in COVID-19 emergency, he is contributing to the preparation of a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, and to the study of the immune responses against this pathogen. Specifically, his task is to isolate and characterize antibodies from patients who have volunteered for the study of experimental vaccines. One of our #TalentiUniSR, he is a graduate in Biotechnology, who perfectly embodies the spirit of our University: “Work is not only made of books, computers and experiments, but above all of people”. His dream is to continue living abroad and pursuing his professional and personal goals, without forgetting the “very important training” obtained in our university, which provided him with the tools to start his career as a researcher.
Your university studies
After graduating from the "Giulio Cesare" Liceo Classico in Rimini in 2008, I enrolled in the Bachelor's degree course in Biotechnology at the University of Bologna, from which I graduated in 2011. I continued my studies with the Master’s Degree in Molecular and Cellular Medical Biotechnology in UniSR, which I achieved in 2013. In 2014, I moved to Bethesda, just outside Washington, DC, where I first started working as a volunteer, then as a Predoctoral Fellow, at the National Institutes of Health, the US government laboratories. From there I established a collaboration with the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom with the aim of obtaining a doctorate, which arrived in the summer of 2019.
Why you enrolled at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University
UniSR has always benefited from great prestige in Italy, which is why this was one of the first I sought information on as my three-year studies came to an end. Reading the curriculum of the online course in Molecular and Cellular Biotechnology, I was attracted by the subjects that were taught, very focused on the study of new technologies, and by the fact that a full year of laboratory practice was expected as an integral part of the second academic year.
What opportunities our University has given you
The study of cutting-edge technologies and disciplines covering different fields has allowed me to export a good level of general knowledge to my first work experiences in the USA. This well suits the type of person I am, as I am more inclined to connect disciplines with each other than to dig deeper into one. The year of experimental practice in Prof. Burioni's laboratory allowed me to acquire that initial level of independence that is always appreciated in a young worker. Aside from the professional and academic opportunities, UniSR also put me in touch with many peers who were passionate about studying, motivated in research and I made excellent friends with. The years at San Raffaele were certainly productive, but also fun!
What you currently do
I am a postdoc, antibody immunologist, at the Jenner Institute of the University of Oxford. My job is to isolate and characterize antibodies from individuals who have volunteered for the study of experimental vaccines. Until now I have particularly been focused on the study of antibody responses to P. falciparum, the causative agent of malaria, but following the COVID-19 pandemic our Institute has completely turned to the preparation of a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, and to the study of the immune responses against this pathogen. Right now I'm contributing to this project.
The main strength of the education provided by San Raffaele
There is more than one. The professors are luminaries of their sectors, not only from a theoretical, but also from a clinical and research point of view. For this reason, they report updated information and encourage students to develop an inquisitive mentality. I also have excellent memories of the administrative staff, who places the education and well-being of the students at first place and is in close contact with the teaching staff to ensure that study and exams proceed as planned.
Your best quality
It depends on the situation. In studying and working, I received much help from realizing early enough that the work is not only made of books, computers and experiments, but above all of people. Knowing how to talk to others, share visions and sometimes ask for help is fundamental.
“The child is the father of man” by William Wordsworth. When I visited Oxford in 2005, at the age of 16, I saw a young woman graduating in a toga inside Christ Church College and thought “I want that”. At the time I wasn't doing very well at school, but after that real vision something changed. My marks got better, I decided that my future would be abroad and my life took a direction. I owe a lot to that 16-year-old, because he brought me here. To this I add another quote on the same theme: “The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today”. With a well-defined vision, a good work ethic (also saving time for rest and recreation) and communicating with those who can help us, we can get anywhere.
On a professional level, to develop a technology that can be used in multiple areas of biomedical research, so as to be able to contribute to the progress of studies on various pathologies that I do not deal with directly. On a personal level, to be able to establish a family abroad and one day, when and if I will be satisfied with my contribution to the scientific world, to change profession and try to put my skills into something completely different.