Biomedical Engineering from ETH Zurich

Current Title, Department, Employer:

Postdoc, Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel


Brief Bio:

I grew up in a small but beautiful, Italian-speaking town in the middle of the Swiss Alps and later moved to the German-speaking part of Switzerland for my high school and university education. I pursued my studies in Biomedical Engineering at ETH Zurich and subsequently joined the Snedeker lab for my PhD in biomechanics. I investigated how tendon cells sense mechanical forces and how the molecular force sensor PIEZO1 regulates tendons both in mice and humans. After completing my PhD, I relocated to Israel and joined the Zelzer lab. They recently discovered that proprioception regulates the musculoskeleton and that its dysfunction can lead to conditions like scoliosis and hip dysplasia. This discovery provides a fresh perspective on common musculoskeletal disorders and provides the opportunity to work at the intersection between musculoskeletal science and neuroscience, which I find particularly fascinating.

Who have been your mentors?

I have been fortunate to have very supportive, kind, smart, and passionate mentors: Jess Snedeker during my master’s and doctoral studies and Eli Zelzer during my postdoc.

What are your specific research areas and expertise?

Mechanotransduction, biomechanics, functional imaging, and proprioception.

What are you currently working on?

The discovery of a new, non-traditional role of proprioception in regulating the musculoskeleton showed that proprioception has more physiological roles than initially thought. I am currently exploring potential additional functions of proprioception in physiology. In addition, I am working to gain a better understanding of how the proprioceptive system works and how it regulates the musculoskeleton through functional imaging approaches.

What project(s) are you looking forward to in the near future?

I am looking forward to performing live imaging experiments of muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs to understand how they respond to mechanical stimulations.

What do you want to do next in your career?

Establishing a lab is a goal of mine. Proprioception is an area that remains largely unexplored and a deeper understanding of it could lead to the development of innovative strategies to address musculoskeletal problems. I am convinced that this research area has the potential for great discoveries and for novel therapeutical approaches.

What advice would you give young investigators in the field?

Find out what type and field of research you are passionate about. Read broadly without limiting yourself to papers from a specific field. Think about discoveries that would be transformative and/or would be very useful for the field or for society. Keep a practical mindset.

When you’re not in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?

I enjoy quality time with my wife and our 2-year-old daughter. There are many beautiful places to visit here in Israel, like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, or the desert, which we explore on weekends. When we return to Switzerland, we spend a lot of time with outdoor activities, like hiking, cycling, or skiing. I am also a big fan of tennis.

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