Tell us about yourself…
My name is Marco, I'm 26 and I'm a PhD student at the HUJI. I studied for my bachelor's degree in Genova, my hometown in Italy, and then I moved to Belgium for my Master's. I lived there for 2 years and now it's (already) been 1 year and a half since I came here for my PhD. Before realizing that science would become my life I used to be a Rugby player. I was shocked when I discovered Jerusalem has a team, so now it's already been 1 year that me and some other guys are really making an effort to rebuild and expand rugby in Jerusalem.. and so far it's going good (also it's a great way to make new friends) so come visit us.
Why have you chosen to study a PhD at this university?
I chose a PhD here because the topic blew my mind. I used to work with stem cells and I thought they were the most fundamental compartment of a tissue. I mean they are, but after reading my PI's papers and discovering that there are cells from the surroundings that are able to instruct these already powerful stem cells I realized I needed to investigate them.
Tell us about your lab and research project...
My lab is very young and very diverse and it is actually the embodiment of one of the best characteristics of research. In other words, when it comes to research, all that matters are facts, and science facts go beyond any possible differences (cultural, political, ethnical, religious...) and I think my lab is a great representation of this. Moreover, scientific research is a tem effort and it's nice to see these differences smoothened out and people helping each other progress.
Our lab studies telocytes which are mesenchymal cells fundamental to support and instruct the adult stem cells of several different organs. Almost nothing is known about them. Their origin is unclear, and only a part of their function has been understood. Apart from the big gap in the literature regarding telocytes which makes them an attractive research field, their involvement in severe pathologies such as cancer can provide new therapeutic targets once all their features will be revealed. Specifically I study telocytes in the skin and in the intestine using a variety of methods including organoids which are extremely exciting.
What are your career goals? How studying here helps you achieve those goals?
I want to become a PI and studying here will allow me to get my PhD which is a requirement for the next steps.
And to the important question - pasta cacho eh papa in Genova or pastries in coffee's kadosh?
Arguably the best cacio e pepe is in Rome but I might get killed for saying this. I come from Genova, the city that invented Pesto so yeah trofie al pesto are crazily good there.
Best dish in Jerusalem?