How exciting to be writing the first post for the PLOSSynbio blog. I feel very honoured to have been chosen as the new Community Editor, and I will do my best to bring to your attention the most interesting news in the synthetic biology world.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. My background is very peculiar (and I cannot hide that I am quite proud of it!). My career in science began when I decided to enrol in a chemistry Hons. Bachelor at the University of Florence in sunny Italy. While I really enjoyed my time in the organic chemistry lab, I soon started to develop a passion for more biologically related problems, and this is reflected in my choice of pursuing a Masters in Chemistry of Biological Molecules, also in Florence. I was lucky to have the opportunity to carry out my Masters thesis project in Dublin, Ireland. While working in the laboratory of Professor Donal O’Shea on the synthesis of novel potential antimicrobial drugs in University College Dublin, I started a collaboration with Professor Francesca Paradisi. This allowed me to learn how to test my compounds against MRSA bacteria (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) and started my journey towards a more biotechnological training. Ireland felt like a second home to me, and upon completion of my Masters I applied and won an Irish Fellowship (called IRCSET at the time) that allowed me to pursue my PhD in Chemical Biology/Biocatalysis in the laboratory of Francesca. During my thesis, I fell in love with enzymes. I was fascinated by how these macromolecules could do such specific and challenging reactions at such a great rate. I did not want to synthesise compounds anymore: I wanted to develop natural tools (engineered enzymes or entirely engineered hosts) that could do it for me, and better! My PhD project focused on the study of an old enzyme (Horse Liver Alcohol Dehydrogenase) to which I taught new tricks (I kind of put a leash on it, too since I worked on its immobilisation onto a solid support)!
Upon graduation, I had ambitious expectations and the growing desire to expand my synthetic biology skills. My dream was to work for a while in the US, in particular at the Venter Institute. This never worked out for me, but I must admit that it was probably for the best since I had the opportunity to collect so many other priceless experiences. I had the most rewarding opportunity to work with the team of Synthace in London (a synthetic biology Start-up company) for a year. During my time at Synthace I learnt so much about the design of genetic parts, standardisation of biology, Design of Experiment (DOE) applied to biological problems, and Big Data. What a rewarding experience! Although with a bit of nostalgia in my heart, I heard academia calling me back, and, led by my passion for teaching, researching and paper writing (yes, paper writing… I am a bit crazy), I decided to leave industry. I was very lucky to be able to continue to develop my training in enzyme engineering and screening development both in the laboratory of Prof. Nick Turner in Manchester University and that of Prof. Joelle Pelletier, in Montréal, where I am working at the moment. In return, I enjoy bringing a synthetic biology perspective to the planning of every experiment I do. Synthetic biology and Biocatalysis are my passions, and I believe that they are the way in which we will be able to harness the power of nature to develop new technologies and solutions for the most diverse applications. I am thankful to have often been involved in industrially related research where goals are clear and results can make a real difference fast.
I would like to spare another couple of lines about my second passion: writing (and everything related to editing and publishing and science communication). When I say that I am ecstatic about being appointed PLOS Synbio Community Editor, I really mean it. It will be an exciting journey, and I will make sure to bring to your attention the most up-to-date news from the synthetic biology world. Don’t hesitate to follow me/us on Twitter (@Dny_Q), and LinkedIn and to get in touch, should you have interesting blog posts you would like to share with the community! We’d be delighted to help!
Over and out.