When did you first find out that you wanted to be scientist?
I have always liked nature and was amazed about biological diversity. How did all these forms come to be? I spontaneously oriented my studies towards natural sciences. I never planned to be a professional scientist. Simply, whenever I had the opportunity, I chose to do the things I liked (as long as it lasted…). I found myself getting fellowships to collaborate in scientific departments, making a PhD, postdocs… and here I am, a professional scientist with the privilege of earning a salary for doing what I like.
Tell us something about your background and main research interests
I felt always attracted by big questions about the evolution and the extent of biological diversity. After training in marine biology, I worked on halophilic, and later hyperthermophilic, archaea. I got fascinated by this third domain of life, life in extreme environments and questions related to the origin of life and early evolution. One of them was the origin of eukaryotes, which I saw as products of archaea-bacteria symbioses. I then started to use molecular tools, which had been instrumental in unveiling the astounding diversity of prokaryotes, to study also the diversity of microbial eukaryotes.
In plain words…what is the principal aim of your current investigation?
I explore the microbial world. Most biological diversity is microscopic and we don’t know it well. One of my main interests is to gain evolutionary information (from genomes or metagenomes) about novel or poorly studied microbial lineages that can help reconstructing more accurately the tree of life and tell us about how different groups of organisms evolved and diversified.
What do you like doing in your free time?
I swim. I like walking in the mountain, forest, countryside, villages, cities… I like reading. I like ancient history and good museums. I like working with my hands.
Which is the best advice you have ever received in science?
It (doing science) has to be fun.
ABOUT THE PROJECT
In non scientific words… What is your role in SINGEK project?
I am responsible for training one young scientist to develop a research project (ESR7) aiming to study the genetic information, retrieved from single cells, of poorly known, uncultured microbial eukaryotes in order to reconstruct their evolutionary history and that of major groups of eukaryotes, including animals, plants, fungi, various algae and many tiny predators and parasites.
How do you think your work in SINGEK will contribute to the research field of Single Cell Genomics of microbial eukaryotes?
In two ways. First, we will produce results that show one possible application of the study of single cell genomes. Collectively, the diversity of results from the different ESRs will already be a nice outcome about the diversity of goals that can be reached through this methodological approach. Second, by exchanging information, questions and potential solutions with the other consortium members, I hope that we will all benefit, progress faster and hopefully find new ways that none of us alone could perhaps discover.
In plain words…how do you think SINGEK will contribute to better understand the living world?
SINGEK is a powerful window of exploration into the fascinating world of microbial eukaryotes. Microscopes allowed us to see these tiny organisms in the past, but they only give us morphological information, which is limited. By studying the genes and genomes of these organisms, we can learn more about their function and their evolution.
How do you recommend people to follow your research activity?
Publications in scientific journals, presentations in scientific meetings, available through the SINGEK website, our team website or scientific databases. Or meet me for a coffee or a beer or a walk…