I am Ellie, originally from Italy!
I now live in Cambridge with my friends. We are always up for trying new restaurants or bars and experiencing the city 🙂 We also sing in a choir and we climb at the indoor gym.
I love reading, fantasy movies, sci-fi, video games, and all kinds of TV shows.
I was born in Florence, Italy, in 1994. I grew up there, and I absolutely love my city. There is so much beautiful art, world-famous museums, and a breathtaking skyline!
When I was 24 I moved to the Netherlands, in the city of Nijmegen, for university. Then in 2020, the Covid pandemic forced me to go back to Florence for many months. When everything was “normal” again I decided to move to Tuebingen, in Germany, to finish my degree. In 2021 I moved again, this time to the UK, first in Saffron Walden and then in Cambridge, where I am now.
I have a younger sister who is a veterinarian. Because of her, we have two blind cats called Wanda and Vision who survived a very bad invention when they were kittens, so they are our superheroes <3 I miss them very much when I am in the UK so I try to go to Italy as much as possible.
I have always loved reading, and my favorite book (and movie) is The Lord Of The Rings. I even have a tattoo of the word “Mellon” in Elvish, which means Friend :).
I also watch a lot of YouTube, especially video essays about TV shows. When I was younger I used to play a lot of computer games (never had an Xbox or a PlayStation) like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Skyrim. Also, I am a super big fan of mangas and animes, and I think the best one is Full Metal Alchemist.
Another passion I have is traveling. My last trip was last summer when I visited the Greek islands of Skiathos and Skopelos (where Mamma Mia! was filmed). I saw the Pyramids in Egypt when I was younger and I have been to New York City. I have traveled and lived all across Europe and I love meeting people of different cultures and eating random and unexpected food. My dream is to go to Japan ^-^
My pronouns are:
My pronouns are she/her
I have been working in a research institute in Cambridge for the last two years: first as a scientist – researching DNA mutations in blindness, cancer and other diseases on Stem Cells -, and now as a Quality Officer.
I make sure that the work that my colleagues do is correct, reproducible, and can be distributed to the world. I create systems and processes to help scientists do their jobs well!
If you imagine a cookie factory, there must be a recipe for the dough, the machines that make the cookies, and finally the boxing and delivery.
The scientists create the recipe, and I help them with a template and the format. This recipe is called a Standard Operating Procedure.
When they use the machine, I make sure it is safe and clean, and that everybody has been taught how to use it. To keep track of this we create Training databases and manuals.
When the cookies are ready at the end of the process we have to make sure they look and taste good! At the end of the experiments, the scientists have data that must be correct and that others can make with the same recipe (reproducibility with an SOP).
Finally, if there is a mistake at any step of the process, I have to know as soon as possible to fix it! I have created a Quality Log where everybody reports their issues. The log immediately notifies the people in charge and the issue is solved (most of the time lol).
My Typical Day:
I arrive at work usually around 9:30, I take my coffee Italian style 🙂
I spend most of my days in meetings with scientists and managers. We make decisions about the Quality expected in all areas of the work.
I have lunch with my colleagues, and do some office work, and I am usually home by 6 pm.
I take the bus to go to work because it is better for the planet and I don’t have a car. We have a super cool bus service because the Campus is outside of Cambridge, and it takes 45 minutes to get there!
I share the office with my 6 team members, and we have chats with some coffee and breakfast.
My days are all different and what I do depends on many people: some days I have meetings, presentations, training, computer work, or casual chats with lots of people. We could talk about science and how can we improve the results, or about a process, or even organize events with food and games!
There are some boring parts of my day, mainly emails ;(
What I'd do with the prize money:
There are many jobs in science that don’t need lab coats!
I would like to talk to more students aged 13-18 who are choosing what to do after school! I really needed that when I was 17, and I wished someone had told me about all the possible careers in STEM. Also, I would love to bring back to Italy, my home, all this knowledge and talk to young Italian students that don’t have amazing opportunities like “I’m a Scientist”.
I would use the £500 to create a series of interactive classroom showcases in Tuscany, Italy.
Every event would cost around £100, with a stand, supplies, props, and resources. In total, I would be able to deliver 5 showcases. My target would be secondary schools in at least three cities: Florence, Siena, and Arezzo.
Travel and accommodation expenses would be covered by me.
2008-2013 Secondary school, Florence, Italy
In Italy, between the ages of 13 and 18, we attend Secondary school (Liceo). There are many different types that have different subjects. For example, there is the Scientific school, where there are more Maths and Physics, and there is the Linguistic school with added languages. I attended a Classical school (Liceo Classico), which means I had as main subjects Philosophy, Latin, Ancient Greek, and History but also Italian, English, PE, Maths, Physics, Biology, Geology and Chemistry. After 5 years I did the National Graduation Exam, with all these subjects. This is like the A-levels.
2015-2019 Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnologies, Florence, Italy
I was really bad at Latin and Greek, but really good at Science, so I decided to go to the University in Florence, to study Biotechnologies. Biotechnology is the field of science that explores the DNA and the cells in the human body, with all the techniques to change, modify, or influence things. I studied how to create and cure mutations in the DNA, how to use instruments like lasers and how to use bacteria and fungi as models to study many things.
2019 – 2022 Master’s degree in Medical Epigenomics, Nijmegen, the Netherlands and Tuebingen, Germany
When I finished my 3-year bachelor’s degree in Biotechnologies, I decided to do a 2-year Master’s program in the Netherlands, studying Medical Epigenomics. Epigenomics is the science of how DNA behaves in different contexts, for example how a brain cell knows it is a brain cell and can do certain things that the liver cells cannot do. It is a very interesting subject because many problems like cancer or aging are not caused by what the DNA says in each gene, but the context in which this gene can be found. During my courses I also studied stem cells, hormones, proteins, fertility and many more. These courses really helped in choosing my career in Science, as during 2 internships I found my passion in genetic engineering and DNA editing using the CRISPR/Cas 9 technology.
The Diploma in Italy is comparable to the A-levels (we don’t have GCSEs), then I went to University with the following qualifications:
2008-2013 – Diploma di Liceo Classico, which means I completed a Classical school at the age of 18.
2015-2019 – Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Molecular Biotechnologies, University of Florence, Italy
2019-2022 – Master of Science (MSc) in Medical Epigenomics, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2017-2019: Waitress in a restaurant in Florence, Italy
Jan-Aug 2019: Research Associate at the University of Florence, Department of Chemistry, Italy
Oct-Dec 2019: Student Assistant in Biochemistry, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2021-2022: Advanced Research Assistant in Gene Editing, Wellcome Sanger Institute, Hinxton, UK
2022-present: Quality Officer, Wellcome Sanger Institute, Hinxton, UK
Wellcome Sanger Institute, Hinxton, CB10 1SA, United Kingdom
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Bookworm turned lab-rat
What did you want to be after you left school?
A Broadway or West End actress! I was taking acting, singing and dancing lessons to star in musicals! Science was my plan B :D
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Yes!! One time I got really angry with my geography professor and I threw a pen at him!! I hit him on his glasses and he reported me to the headmistress.
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I would be a teacher of Science and English :)
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Uh this is a really hard question! I love an Italian band called Tactical Nuclear Penguins, and also Taylor Swift!
What's your favourite food?
Hard to choose between pizza and sushi o_o probably pizza!
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
1: I would wish to learn Japanese and Arabic with no effort at all (lol) 2:I would wish to have always the perfect amount of money needed in my pocket. It could be the coins to pay the parking, or a card to pay for a house for my mother! 3: I would wish for a sudden and deep understanding of conflict resolution in all governments in the world, so they would stop resorting to war and weapons to solve problems.
Tell us a joke.
Why do ants never get sick? Because they have little anti-bodies!