Eugenia Piddini (the boss!)
PhD in EMBL Heidelberg, 2002
Postdoctoral work at MRC NIMR, 2002-2009
Group Leader at The Gurdon Institute & University of Cambridge, 2010-2017
Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow since 2017
Professor at University of Bristol since 2017
Winner of the BSCB’s 2019 Hooke Medal
My scientific background and interests lie in developmental biology, cell biology and genetics, and I use Drosophila as a model system to study human d iseases including cancer. I did my PhD at Cancer Research UK under the supervision of Nic Tapon, then worked as a postdoc in JP Vincent’s lab at the NIMR, and later in Pete Cullen’s lab here in Bristol. The signalling pathways I researched in previous roles are relevant to cell competition, so I followed the literature with keen interest and was excited when the opportunity arose to investigate cell competition in Eugenia’s lab. In addition to being involved in several research projects, I’m enjoying supervising students who come to work with us and helping to keep the lab running smoothly. Outside of work I love spending time with my family, watching films, reading, chess, running and going out with friends.
Using the fly model and my knowledge in bioinformatics and cell biology, I want to better understand the mechanism of cell competition and the key pathways driving it. In Eugenia’s lab, I am investigating what is priming a cell to undergo elimination by cell competition. This interest to understand how two populations of cells with different genetics behave to each other comes from the PhD I completed in Montpellier, France. During this thesis, I worked on the implication of signaling pathways in cancerology. I used Drosophila as a model and genome wide approaches in Alexandre Djiane’s lab to investigate how several mutations can synergise in the development of tumors. Outside lab hours, I enjoy having walks in the countryside especially during mushroom seasons and also binge-watching series and video games.
I got the research bug during my undergrad in Health Biotechnologies and my Master’s in Pharmaceutical Biotechnologies at the University of Padua in Italy. In particular, I have always been fascinated by the role of intercellular communication in maintaining homeostasis and how its perturbation leads to disease. I was able to dive into it during my PhD studies at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer research at Uppsala University in Sweden, where I explored novel roles of known signal transducers in regulating proliferation and apoptosis of epithelial cells. Being deeply curious about how cells work together to assure the health of the tissue, I was then delighted to join the Piddini lab for my postdoc to explore the mechanisms of cell competition in mammalian cells. To do this, I make use of a vast array of molecular biology techniques and a strong partiality to imaging methods. When not in the lab I enjoy science communication, reading, dancing Lindy hop and cycling around, but my true passion lies in food (prepping and consuming alike!).
I always had a great passion for science and always been genuinely intrigued by the complexity of the human body. It really fascinates me how cells can interact so efficiently with each other. I graduated at the University of Pisa where, as part of my studies, I had the chance to spend a year at the Join Research Centre (JRC) in Ispra (Italy). After obtaining my degree, I was awarded a scholarship to work at the Cancer Research Institute of San Martino Hospital in Genoa. To keep studying and expand my knowledge, I moved to UK, where I obtained a PhD in Chemical and Biological Engineering at Sheffield University. My project was focused on antimicrobial peptides as possible agents for gene delivery in cancer cells. Finally, I landed in Bristol University as postdoc. My first role was in Christoph Wülfing’s lab where, using 3D spheroids model, I recreated the tumor microenvironment to study its inhibitory effects on T cells. When I saw that a position in the Piddini’s lab was opening I promptly applied for the job. It was finally my chance to look more in details at cell-cell interaction. I am currently investigating the effect of mechanical cell competition on mammalian cells and specifically looking at the role of p53 in creating “losers” hypersensitive to compaction. When not in the lab, I enjoy climbing, play football, watching movies and last but not least, cooking!
I am a Senior Research Associate in Eugenia Piddini’s lab. After my Bachelor’s degree in Biotechnologies from the University “La Sapienza” in Rome, I obtained a MRes degree in Biomedicine from UCL- University College London followed by a PhD degree in Cell Biology from UCL-University College London under the supervision of Dr Ryan O’Shaughnessy and Prof Judith Breuer. I then moved to California for a postdoctoral training in Prof Carolyn Lee’s lab at Stanford University. Since my PhD, my scientific interest has been focused on the cell biology of the skin tissue. Specifically, in my PhD I studied how skin- tropic viruses “hijack” the differentiation program of the epidermis to successfully replicate and propagate in the skin and in my first Postdoc I investigated novel markers of epidermal differentiation whose expression and function is disrupted in cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. I joined Prof Eugenia Piddini’s lab to study the role that cell competition plays in epidermal homeostasis and skin cancer growth and its mechanism. Outside the lab I mostly enjoy reading classic and historical novels.
I came to cell competition research via a detour in neurobiology and immunology. As such, I’ve a keen interest in how cells communicate, defend themselves, and attack each other. I studied biology and liberal arts at the University of Texas at Austin, got a Biochemistry Master’s from the University of Cambridge, and am currently a PhD student at Bristol. Outside the lab, I’m partial to running, diving, reading, and fiction writing.
I have been fascinated by biology since my childhood and discovered I really like looking at cells in my early lab experiences. This led me to choose to do my PhD in a Cell Biology programme and thus I came to Bristol. In my rotation in the Piddini lab I discovered how amazing flies are as a tool and how many different pretty images one can get of a wing imaginal disc. Then, super versatile fly genetic tools were added to the equation giving me a great opportunity to study cell competition in any way we want really. Of course, I have been initiated in the wonderful world of cell competition as well. Biology never ceases to get more complex and give us new questions to ask which is perfect for me. Regardless of what path I choose in the future I have been inspired to cast aside the notion of the cell behaving individually and look instead more at cell as part of a system, regulating each other non-autonomously, which I hope will keep biology interesting for me for a long time. When I am not working on my project, I like to help make academia a better place and assist in the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) committee of our department. I believe it is crucial to try and listen to concerns raised by our fellow scientists and do our best to make our environment welcoming to everyone, especially in this period of great uncertainty. I also like to communicate my science to the public and have put together several teams to represent the work we do in the Piddini lab in outreach events in Bristol and the Southwest. I hope to do more of that in the future when things clear up. Otherwise, I really enjoy cooking and eating nice food, listening to music (especially live when I can again), and exercising.
Golnar Kolaghar, now Group Leader, University of Cambridge
Laura Wagstaff, now Lecturer, University of East Anglia
Saskia Suijkerbuijk, now Senior Scientist, Netherlands Cancer Institute
Paola Marco i Casanova, now Senior Scientist, AstraZeneca
Former Graduate Students
Iwo Kucinski, PhD
Maja Goschorska, PhD
Michael Dinan, PhD
Kasia Kozyrska, PhD
Sarah Mansour, MSc
Anna Takeuchi, MSc
Former Technicians/Lab Managers
Carolina Mendoza Topaz, now Senior Research Scientist, AstraZeneca