Interviews with Scientists: Emanuel Tahiri

Interviews with Scientists: Emanuel Tahiri
9 months ago

Interviews with Scientists: Emanuel Tahiri

In the next instalment of our Interviews with Scientists series, we chatted to Emanuel Tahiri of the University of Coimbra, Portugal! 

Emanuel is a first year PhD student who recently won a Hello Bio voucher in a ‘Draw Your Science’ competition at the 5th annual retreat of the Neurosciences and Disease area at CIBB.

His PhD research is centred around Alzheimer’s disease, and in this great conversation he told us more about his love of science, the key challenges facing life scientists today, the valuable advice given to him at the start of his PhD, and his hopes for the future…


Hi Emanuel, please can you tell us a little bit about your current role at the University of Coimbra?

I’m a first year PhD student in Experimental Biology and Biomedicine (BEB) at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. I am currently pursuing my PhD at the Neuronal Signalling lab where I’m studying the role of Intra-axonal autophagy in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.


What is the focus of your PhD research?

The focus of my PhD research is to understand the mechanisms underlying the disruption of autophagosomal biogenesis in the axon during the early stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Specifically, I am investigating how changes in intra-axonal autophagy contribute to the development and progression of AD. Autophagy plays a vital role in the degradation and recycling of cellular components, and its dysregulation has been implicated in the accumulation of proteins associated with AD. By studying the molecular mechanisms involved in intra-axonal autophagy, I aim to identify potential targets for pharmacological intervention. If we can elucidate the specific molecular pathways that are disrupted in AD, it may be possible to develop new therapeutic approaches that restore normal autophagy function and mitigate the progression of the disease.


Did you always want to work in science when you were younger, and if so why?

Although I would love to tell the story of a child always passionate about science with a strong curiosity, the truth is that I only encountered this world later in life. During high school, I primarily focused on humanities subjects such as literature and classical languages. However, despite my initial lack of experience in science, I always had a strong interest in the world around me. It was during the later years of high school that I had the opportunity to explore the scientific field more deeply. As I immersed myself in scientific study, I discovered that there was much more to the discoveries and theories I had learned in school. I began reading scientific books, attending conferences, and participating in laboratories. My passion for science grew rapidly, and I decided to pursue a course of study focused on biology. During my university years, I was fortunate to meet professors and mentors who inspired and guided me. Later, during my master's degree, I had the opportunity to participate in a double degree project at the University of Coimbra, and it was here, after completing my studies, that I decided to embark on my doctoral journey in the Neuroscience field.


What excites you most about the work that you do?

Science represents my ideal habitat. The speed and velocity with which this world moves, the unpredictability and constant demand for adaptability to every situation, the perseverance and resilience, and above all, the continuous and relentless pursuit of answers to ever-new questions.


You recently won a Hello Bio voucher in a 'Draw Your Science' competition - can you tell us a little about the challenge, and describe your winning poster?

'Draw Your Science' was a science communication challenge organized at the recent 5th annual retreat of the Neurosciences and Disease area at CIBB (Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology & Instituto de Investigação Clínica e Biomédica de Coimbra, iCBR). The challenge involved attempting to explain one's doctoral project using only a pen and a sheet of paper. In my case, my poster was structured in a continuous zoom-in. I started by depicting a neuron and the main proteins characteristic of Alzheimer's disease. Then, moving towards autophagy, I explained how it works and begins its journey right within the most distal point of the axon. Finally, I focused on specific proteins related to the process of autophagosome formation, which we believe may be negatively regulated in the early stages of the disease.


What will you spend the voucher on?

Part of my project involves studying how Ca2+ influences certain important autophagosomal pathways in the context of AD. For this reason, this grant will be of considerable importance in acquiring the Ca2+ chelator BAPTA-AM.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing life scientists today?

From my perspective, I find the communication aspect and maintaining a healthy work-life balance particularly challenging in this field. Regarding communication, effectively and accurately conveying scientific concepts to the public is a significant hurdle. Misinformation, sensationalism, and misinterpretation in the media can result in misunderstandings and erode trust in the scientific process. Bridging the gap between scientists and the general public, promoting scientific literacy, and facilitating constructive dialogue are vital for fostering understanding and garnering support for scientific progress. As for work-life balance, the demands of a career in life sciences can be overwhelming. Juggling research responsibilities, teaching, administrative tasks, funding pursuits, and personal commitments can have a detrimental impact on scientists' well-being. Lengthy working hours, high expectations, and the pressure to publish can contribute to stress, burnout, and mental health issues. It is crucial to establish a supportive and sustainable work environment that prioritizes the overall wellbeing of life scientists.


Who has been your greatest role model, and why?

Clearly, my parents and my sister. Despite having jobs very different from mine, if today I have achieved a large part of the goals I set for myself in the past, I owe it to their teachings, their example, their advice, their constant support, and above all, their immense patience. They deserve a great deal of credit.


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

The main lesson I have learned in recent years is that often quality and quantity need to be perfectly balanced. This balance is crucial in various aspects of life, whether it be in work, relationships, or personal pursuits. While quantity may seem appealing, striving for an abundance of something without considering its quality can lead to diminishing returns and a lack of fulfilment. On the other hand, focusing solely on quality while neglecting quantity may limit opportunities for growth and exploration. Finding the right equilibrium between quality and quantity allows for optimal productivity, satisfaction, and overall success.


What’s the best piece of advice you could give someone just starting out on a PhD?

Being at the end of my first year, I don't believe I am in a position to provide useful advice to those about to embark on this journey. However, I want to share with you a phrase that was told to me by a dear friend before I applied for this position: "A Ph.D. is a marathon, not a sprint. Be consistent, resilient, slow down when you feel tired, and never forget that being clear-headed will allow you to reach the finish line. It's a path full of ups and downs, not at all easy, not at all trivial, but it will give you a lot of experience and, with a bit of luck, also a beautiful memory."


How do you see your career progressing in the future/where do you see yourself in 10 years?

If I were to think about my future self and how and where I'll be in 10 years, well, what I hope is that the 37-year-old Emanuel is a competent, smart person still hungry for curiosity and a desire to learn. To this day, I am convinced that I am an individual with ample room for improvement, and I believe that the near future can be crucial in bridging the many professional gaps and smoothing out numerous rough edges in my character.


Outside of your career, what do you enjoy doing most? (e.g. hobbies, passion projects, etc.)

In life, I am a person who loves sports. I really enjoy training and running. Recently, I have also started strumming the ukulele, but let's just say I'm better at being a researcher than a musician.


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

Naturally, we all agree that the greatest invention of all time is the coffee machine, right? Jokes aside, I believe it is limiting to confine the process of scientific discovery to just one remarkable invention. The discoveries of DNA, penicillin, vaccines, genomic editing, or CRISPR, are only a few examples that have brought tremendous progress to the field of science. However, despite these remarkable achievements, humanity has continued to unveil novel and increasingly awe-inspiring revelations. Hence, what I prefer to believe is that the greatest discovery is yet to be made.


What’s your favourite science quote?

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn” (John C. Maxwell)


And finally… is there anything else you would like to tell us about?

Absolutely! I'm involved in organising an international Workshop on Science Communication and Careers in Neuroscience with Brain Gain. The Brain Gain project was born in 2020 with the mission to democratize access to neuroscience and to research professionals, while breaking down complex concepts, highlighting excellent neuroscience research, inspiring students to follow neuroscience-related careers, showcasing career diversity and national role models and stimulating public interest, using innovative digital resources. You can find more information about it at


It’s been great to speak to you Emanuel! We look forward to seeing how your career progresses!

Connect with Emanuel Tahiri:


If you enjoyed this article, why not check out the other resources available on our blog. We are passionate about supporting life scientists including early career life scientists and PhD students - with really low-priced reagents, antibodies and biochemicals, early career scientist grants, and resources to help with both personal and professional development. We know how tough it is - so we hope you find these helpful!

More General Support for Life Scientists

For advice on wellbeing, dissertations, presenting at conferences, wellbeing, PhD support, networking and lots more, we have a huge range of articles to help - just click below:

Advice and guidance for life scientists

Save up to 50% on our high purity reagents...

When you get to the stage of planning your experiments, don't forget that we offer a range of low-cost, high-purity agonists, antagonists, inhibitors, activators, antibodies and fluorescent tools (yes - they really are around half the price of other suppliers!) You can use our Quick Multi-Search Tool to search for lots of products in one go, and the range includes:


Save 50% on synaptic signaling tools, GPCR ligands, ion channel modulators, signaling & stem cell tools


Technical resources

Try our Molarity Calculator: a quick and easy way to calculate the mass, volume or concentration required for making a solution.

Molarity Calculator

Try our Dilution Calculator: an easy way to work out how to dilute stock solutions of known concentrationsDilution Calculator

We also offer a comprehensive range of technical resources including antibody protocols and methods, product guides and mini-reviews:

Technical resources - methods and protocols

And finally, don't forget to check back in with our blog regularly for our latest articles. If there’s something you’d love to contribute to the community, whether that’s an interview or article, drop us a line at


Leave your comment
Your email address will not be published