Eugenia Piddini (the boss!)
2001 PhD in EMBL Heidelberg,
2002-2009 Postdoctoral work at MRC NIMR,
2010-2017 Group Leader, The Gurdon Institute & University of Cambridge,
2017-present, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, University of Bristol
2017-present, Professor of Cell Biology, University of Bristol
2019, Winner of the BSCB 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 have been passionate about cell communication and developmental biology since the beginning of my studies, and more particularly about dissecting the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie these processes. I fall in love with research and the use of Drosophila during my first internship in Roland Le Borgne’s lab in Rennes (France) during my Bachelor’s studies. I then moved to Paris to the Magistère Européen de Génétique at the University Paris-7 for the last year of my Bachelor and my Master studies, where I had the opportunity to do internships at EMBL Heidelberg in the lab of Stefano De Renzis (4 months) and at New-York University in the lab of Ruth Lehmann (5 months). I then decided to go to Thomas Lecuit’s lab in Marseille for my 6 months final Master internship and for my PhD, where I have characterized a signalling pathway controlling planar polarized cell contractility during development in Drosophila. After addressing cell communication events controlling morphogenesis and embryonic development during my PhD and previous internships, I now want to focus on cancer for my postdoc as many aspects of development are present in an uncontrolled way during tumorigenesis and interactions between tumour and host cells play crucial roles in tumour development. I was thus delighted to join Eugenia’s lab, where I am working on cell competition and cancer. Outside the lab, I like listening music, eating nice food and going out with friends.
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.
I obtained a BSc in Cellular and Molecular Medicine from the University of Bristol and an MRes in Translational Cancer Medicine from King’s College London. I am currently a PhD student part of the Digital Health and Care CDT, jointly supervised by Prof. Eugenia Piddini and Dr Sabine Hauert from the Department of Engineering Mathematics. My project brings together cell and cancer biology with swarm robotics to control cells as they undergo swarm-controlled manipulations autonomously using closed-loop feedback and machine learning algorithms. The project will involve using a device called the Dynamic Optical Micro Environment (DOME), created by the Hauert Lab, to control the individual cellular dynamics using light for possible cancer and wound healing treatment options. The DOME will be used to enhance cell migration for wound healing, targeted DNA damage to eliminate cancer cells and to study how light affects cell competition, the p53 pathways and test novel optogenetic tools. The project will also involve conceptualising how the DOME could be miniaturised into a wearable device and about the public’s trustworthiness of an autonomous device for cancer and wound healing treatments. Outside of the lab, I’m usually baking, watching a TV series, or enjoying a pretty sunset.
Golnar Kolaghar, now Group Leader, University of Cambridge
Laura Wagstaff, now Lecturer, University of East Anglia
Saskia Suijkerbuijk, now Assistant Professor Developmental Biology, Institute of Biodynamics and Biocomplexity (IBB) Utrecht University
Silvia Vivarelli, now Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of Biomedical and Biotechnological Sciences, University of Catania
Paola Marco i Casanova, now Senior Scientist, AstraZeneca
Medhavi Vishwakarma, now Group Leader, Center for BioSystems Science and Engineering, Bangalore
Former PhD Students
Iwo Kucinski, PhD
Maja Goschorska, PhD
Michael Dinan, PhD
Kasia Kozyrska, PhD
Michael Baumgartner, PhD
Former Masters Students
Sarah Mansour, MSc
Anna Takeuchi, MSc
Salomon Christer, MSc
Former Technicians/Lab Managers
Carolina Mendoza Topaz, now Senior Research Scientist, AstraZeneca