Meet our Early Career Scientist Grant Winner Valentina Cerrato

Meet our Early Career Scientist Grant Winner Valentina Cerrato
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2 months ago

Meet our Early Career Scientist Grant Winner Valentina Cerrato

We’re delighted to introduce another of our Early Career Scientist Grant winners! Valentina Cerrato of the University of Turin, Italy, is the latest recipient of our monthly $500 grant awarded to a PhD or postdoc life scientist to help support their career. 

Valentina is a postdoc working in Dr Annalisa Buffo’s lab, Department of Neuroscience Rita Levi-Montalcini at the University of Turin, Italy. Valentina will use the grant to help fund her trip to the XVI European Meeting on Glial Cells in Health and Disease in Berlin, Germany where she will present her current research on human and mouse cerebellar glial cells via two poster presentations.

Valentina told us how she felt about receiving the grant:

For all the “astrocyte lovers” as I define myself, the Euroglia meeting is an essential event. I am deeply grateful to Hello Bio for their generous support that will help me participate in this congress. Their dedication to helping young scientists is truly inspiring and I hope that other organizations will follow their lead. Valentina Cerrato, University of Turin, Italy, Hello Bio Early Career Scientist Grant winner

 

Congratulations Valentina! First, can you tell us a bit more about what you're working on at the moment?

My research focuses on the study of cerebellar glial cells (mainly astrocytes and oligodendrocytes) and their functions, with the final goal of understanding their role in diseases involving the cerebellum such as ataxia, ADHD, autism, and intellectual disability. My work involves the application of -omic and functional techniques to study both human and mouse cerebellum, with a particular focus on the mechanisms of generation and specification of astrocytes diversity.

 

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

Astrocytes are a highly heterogeneous cell population with diverse functions depending on their location, age, and developmental stage. This complexity makes studying astrocytes both extremely challenging and exciting, as it requires a multidisciplinary approach to fully understand these cells. To tackle this challenge, I have recently developed expertise in analysing -omic data and am eager to explore new cutting-edge techniques that can help unravel previously unknown aspects of their fascinating biology.

 

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

Ben Barres, an exceptional scientist who made important contributions to our understanding of astrocytes and their role in the brain. While his passing a few years ago was a loss for the scientific community, his legacy lives on. He was a vocal advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in science and actively worked to create a more inclusive environment for underrepresented groups, including women and transgender scientists. What I admire most about Ben Barres was his courage to speak out against the barriers and challenges that underrepresented groups face in science.

 

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

The first big challenge is the continuous need to secure fundings for their research, which often creates significant stress and anxiety for researchers who may need to support themselves and their families while pursuing their research. As a result, a significant amount of time is spent applying for grants rather than doing research.

Another challenge is the academic career path, particularly in countries like Italy where promotion and tenure decisions are based heavily on publication metrics. This creates a heavily toxic "publish or perish" culture that may incentivize quantity over quality.

 

And finally… what’s your favourite science quote?

“La scienza è un'opera collettiva, ed è difficile dire dove cominci il contributo di uno e finisca quello dell'altro.” (“Science is a collective effort, and it is difficult to say where one person's contribution ends and another's begins”) - Rita Levi-Montalcini

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Thank you so much Valentina! We wish you all the very best with your poster presentations at Glia23! 

Connect with Valentina:

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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!

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