Interviews with Scientists: Dr Concetta Di Natale

Interviews with Scientists: Dr Concetta Di Natale
3 years ago

Interviews with Scientists: Dr Concetta Di Natale

Dr Concetta Di Natale gained both her Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology and Masters in Medical Biotechnology from the University of Naples. She then completed her PhD in Materials Engineering in a joint program at the University of Naples “Federico II” and Italian Institute of Technology@CRIB.

Concetta then went on to hold a postdoctoral position at the the Italian Institute of Technology@CRIB, and Research Fellow positions in the Institute’s Department of Pharmacy and Department of Biological Science.

Concetta is now an IBSA 2019 Research Fellow at the Centro Interdipartimentale di Ricerca sui Biomateriali (CRIB) focusing on neurodegeneration and pain-related phenomena. She is also a certified reviewer for MDPI journals.

It was a pleasure to speak with Concetta about her past and present research, the scientists she most admires, advice for early career researchers, and more.

Great to speak to you, Concetta! Firstly, please do tell us a bit more about your past and current research...

I completed my PhD in Materials Engineering in 2016. My PhD project was focused on preparation and chemo-physical characterization of peptide based polymeric biosensors for food industry and healthcare by employing different techniques such as microfluidic techniques, IR spectroscopy, SEM, TEM and Confocal microscopy. At the same time, I worked on different projects of outstanding biomedical interest by acquiring strong experience in peptide synthesis and characterization.

During my PhD work, I developed a robust platform for the detection of clinically relevant analytes in biological samples by microfluidic systems. After my PhD, I became a Research Fellow at the Department of Biological Science and Pharmacy of University of Naples “Federico II”, where I developed my skills in analytical chemistry actively participating in the design and implementation of the experiments about the study of a novel biomarker for neurodegeneration.

During 2019 I was a Post Doc at IIT@CABHC in Naples where I successfully applied my research skills to biomaterials fields. I directly participated in planning experiments as well as evaluating test results.

This year, I won a grant by IBSA foundation for one year to work as a PI. The project is entitled: “Oxidative stress biomarkers for monitoring Parkinson's disease pain associated progression and evaluating new therapies”.

How has the global COVID-19 pandemic impacted your research?

COVID-19 was truly a tragic situation for us, in Italy. At the moment, myself and many Italian researchers are stuck at home. We are mainly finalizing jobs and writing projects, but we will be back stronger than before.

Did you always want to be a scientist when you were younger, and why?

I've always wanted to be a scientist. My passion was born in high school, thanks to my teacher of chemical sciences. During those years, I discovered my passion for science and my aptitude for it. I understood that with it everything is possible, and nothing impossible.

What advice would you give those just starting out in their science career?

I remember my doctorate as a morally and scientifically difficult period; but it was also the best time for my professional growth. I would advise young people who take this path never to break down, not to renounce their ideals, and to always assert their scientific ideas.

What's the most important lesson you have learned in your career so far?

To never give up, and to follow my ideas.

What’s your biggest achievement in your career to date?

For me and my career, the IBSA foundation grant is my biggest achievement. I’m very proud to have been chosen by IBSA, and that for the first time I will be the PI of a project that really can help a lot of people.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing life scientists and their work?

Researchers, especially in Italy where I work, always have few funds. Many research groups are unable to pay enough to stabilize their teams. This precariousness in our work is the most difficult barrier to break down.

What does a typical day in the lab look like for you?

My typical work day in the lab starts at around 10am and finishes at 8pm. In this time, I design and develop my projects and experiments. I’m involved in group meetings with my PI and my colleagues, and I study to improve my skills and scientific knowledge. In my free time, I like to have fun with my friends.

What does your typical day look like at the moment, while your lab is closed?

At the moment I spend my days writing projects and finding opportunities for my research projects. I hope to return to my lab as soon as possible.

Outside of your research and any related work, what do you enjoy doing most?

My favourite hobbies are to listen to music, to go for long walks, go shopping and admire nature. I live near the sea, so I love going there. And for the last year, my favorite hobby has been playing with my niece Federica.

If you weren’t a scientist, what do you think you’d be doing now?

I think I’d like to be a writer, I’d like to write fairy tales for children.

What is it about your field of research that excites you most?

I love to work with proteins and related compounds. I'm also excited to develop new drugs to help sick people.

Which fellow scientists working today do you most admire, and why?

Firstly, my Bachelor and Master’s degree Supervisor, Daniela Marasco. She contributed to the realization of my career, and everything that I scientifically know. She taught me to follow your passion and to never give up. Even though I no longer work directly with her, we continue to collaborate.

Then, there is my colleague Liana Scognamiglio. During my PhD she had a pivotal role and supported me experimentally and morally. The same goes for my colleague Sara La Manna, a young researcher that I highly value for her achievements. Another important person to me are two Professors: Prof. Carlo Pedone and Prof. Paolo Abrescia who introduced me to and supported me in the world of Neurodegeneration.

I also greatly admire Prof. Paolo Paolo Netti, an internationally renowned scientist, and the Engineer Raffaele Vecchione who have welcomed me into their group in the last two years and who are supporting me for my scientific growth. And finally, I admire all my friends who work abroad to fulfill their dreams and passions, away from their families, in particular Dr. Paola Brandi.

What’s your favourite science quote?

“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas” by Marie Curie.

This is Marie Curie’s response to a reporter during a holiday with her husband, who after mistaking her for a housekeeper asked her if there was anything confidential she could recount. I agree with her, that in the modern world we need to be more curious about ideas and novelty than people.

I greatly admire Marie Curie. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person (and the only woman) to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields: chemistry and physics.

What do you think is the greatest scientific discovery of all time?

The discovery of the DNA structure. It is the molecule of life, and this discovery changed all scientific fields from chemistry, to genetics, to biology.


Thank you so much for speaking with us, Concetta! We wish you all the best with your PI position and return to the lab.

Funding for Concetta’s research comes principally from University of Naples Federico II by the Professor Paolo Netti, and also from the IBSA foundation. She is also a member of the Royal Society of Biology.

Connect with Concetta on LinkedIn at:


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