1. How did you arrive at your current university?
While searching for a new working experience after two years of post-doc, I noticed that the National University of Singapore was rated among the top 30 Universities worldwide. In addition to that, I checked whether there were positions available and, especially, further opportunities for my future career. That strengthened my final decision.
2. When did you first know that you wanted to be a scientist?
I realized it during my PhD. I have always been fascinated by the combination of advanced technologies and biological processes, and I soon recognized that being a scientist enabled a continuous discovery of new stimulating findings.
3. When you finished graduate school, why did you choose to stay in academia instead of going into industry?
I love the contact with students and young people, since they keep you motivated and open-minded. The reward deriving from grateful students is the most straightforward and remarkable impact you can have. The problem, eventually, is that students are always young, and you are getting older and older over the time…they call it “wisdom”, but to me it is an inexorably increasing gap.
4. How has your unique background assisted you in your career?
I made my PhD in Medicinal Chemistry, and my Post-doc in Drug delivery. Although carrying on both these disciplines at decent levels has become quite challenging, I have continued these two topics in my new research group; they keep the mind extremely flexible and of course they enhance the chances of getting grants.
5. What advice would you give to an aspiring young academic?
Don’t let many daily problems to demoralize you; look at the big picture you have in mind, and work hard to realize it. These difficulties will become precious components of you final mosaic.
6. What do you regard as the most significant achievement(s) of your scientific career thus far?
Well, I have achieved my goal of establishing my own independent research group, securing a few grants as chief or co-principal investigator and increasing the quality and number of publications and patents. However, I feel extremely happy about the recent publication of my first book as sole editor: it has been a huge huge effort.
7. Which scientists have inspired you in your career and how did they inspire you?
My PhD and Post-doc supervisors had both a remarkable influence on me, and their high commitment and the scientific quality of their work have conveyed into great enthusiasm, ambition and motivation in my research.
8. Did you have a mentor(s) and how did they guide you along your career?
I have never had mentors, simply because of lack of opportunities. I felt a bit lost at the beginning, but it was just a matter of a few months. My colleagues have been very helpful.
9. How do you come up with your ideas for grants and/or papers?
I keep my research interests over a broad area of interdisciplinary topics: the main ideas come from fruitful collaborations and excellent students.
10. Looking back, what are some things that you wished someone had told you when you were starting out in your academic career?
I wished I had a mentor to guide me along the way in the initial phases. After a Post-doc, we are definitely not prepared to fulfill all the duties and responsibilities that Academia requires.
11. What skills or attributes do you think make for a good academic?
Being very enthusiastic, attentive and determined. These attributes, together with the opportunity to investigate forefront disciplines, could certainly enable an academic scientist to realize both his personal and professional goals.
12. What do you think is the biggest misconception about being an academic?
Everybody outside tends to believe that people involved in academia are on holiday during the semester breaks…so far from the real situation!
13. Outside of your scientific research, what hobbies do you enjoy?
I enjoy walking or doing some sport, rigorously outdoor.
14. Which scientific discovery do you wish that you had contributed to in history?
The discovery of vaccination, since it has paved the way to treatments that prevent diseases, boost the immune system and save lives of entire populations every day and (almost) worldwide.
15. Name five things on your desk right now?
Research articles in preparation/revision, PhD theses, Exam papers, my TO DO list and a photo of my fiancée.