On international biomedical research - a conversation with Dr. Chiara L. Rinoldi

October's guest in our interview series was Dr. Chiara Lara Rinoldi of the Institute of Fundamental Technological Problems of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Dr. Rinoldi is involved in the analysis of biological and antibacterial properties of materials, studying the interactions between material and cell and material and bacteria. She is also the supervisor of one of the doctoral students in Prof. Filippo Pierini's group. She collaborates with Poles, Americans, Italians and Iranians. She says that Milan, where she studied, and Warsaw are two economic capitals similar in pace of life and opportunities.

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Please tell us about your Polish adventure. How did it happen that you did your PhD at the Warsaw University of Technology and then decided to work in Poland, at the Institute of Fundamental Technological Problems of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPPT PAN)?

While writing my master's thesis at the Politecnico di Milano, I expressed my interest in doing my doctorate abroad to my thesis supervisor. By then, I was already determined to pursue a research career and felt the need to face new research challenges and the desire to develop new skills. Mrs. Professor, through the COST ACTION research network, had many contacts abroad. Among them was the Warsaw University of Technology, which at the time, in cooperation with Harvard Medical School, announced a competition for a postdoctoral position in materials science. I immediately liked the project very much, and when I was notified that my candidacy was successful, I packed my suitcase and left. In Warsaw I found a multidisciplinary, dynamic and motivating environment, and I have always been very happy with this choice. During my doctoral studies, I maintained close contacts with the Institute of Fundamental Technological Problems of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPPT PAN) and had the pleasure of meeting Professor Filippo Pierini. After obtaining my doctorate, I decided to continue my adventure in Poland as a researcher in his team.

You work in Prof. Pierini's international team. Could you tell us about your experience in such a diverse research group?

My work includes research and development of innovative biomaterials, analysis and optimization of their properties. This has allowed me to broaden my knowledge in the field of tissue engineering - during my PhD I worked on tendon regeneration, while at IPPT PAN I worked intensively on issues related to neurons, controlled drug release, wound healing and cellular carriers. In addition, I am the co-supervisor of one of the PhD students in Prof. Pierini's team. In addition to my strictly scientific work, I collaborate with the administrative department and the grants department in submitting proposals and preparing the necessary documents for the team.

What does your team currently do?

We are currently involved in developing biomaterials for a variety of biomedical purposes, including special patches for wound care, nanomaterials for injection between intervertebral discs for pain relief, biointerfaces and neural probe coatings. We also design antibacterial masks and drug delivery kits.

What are your main responsibilities?

I mainly work on the analysis of biological and antibacterial properties of materials, studying the interactions between material and cell and material and bacteria. As of 2019, I am also a co-supervisor for one of my PhD students.

You have co-authored many publications, produced in collaboration with prominent scientists. Please tell us which journal you would most like to write for.

Like any scientist, my dream is to someday publish an article in Nature; in my field, collaborating with journals such as Nature Biotechnology or Nature Communications would be a great accomplishment.

I would also like to ask about your scientific authorities. Could you name some people you admire, and for what?

In my scientific career, I have been fortunate to work with some outstanding figures. Starting with Prof. Wojciech Swieszkowski, who is one of Europe's foremost experts in biomaterials for biomedical research. My experience in the U.S. gave me the opportunity to work with Prof. Ali Tamayol, who introduced me to tissue engineering and, more specifically, to muscle regeneration, but above all, infected me with his passion and commitment to research. Finally, Prof. Lorenzo Moroni, who as an Italian abroad - also with PoliMI - managed to have a remarkable international career, becoming one of the authorities on biofabrication and regenerative medicine.

You studied in Milan. Are Warsaw and Milan very different from each other?

The cities themselves and their lifestyles are very similar. They are the two economic capitals of Poland and Italy, respectively, characterized by the same hectic pace of daily life, while providing plenty of opportunities for young and old alike. Culture and weather, on the other hand, are two things that require more adaptation. I must also add, Warsaw and Poland in general is a safe place to live, with one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

What did Poland surprise you with?

I must admit that it met all my expectations and even exceeded them. Warsaw is a very vibrant, international and dynamic city. The employment opportunities and research funds are much greater compared to what Italy and, in some respects, Europe are currently offering.

Would you recommend other Italian scientists to work in Poland? For example, for grants from the National Science Center (NCN) or the Ulam NAWA (National Agency for Academic Exchange) program?

In general, I would advise everyone to gain experience in Poland, where you can prove yourself in the research field without having to go through sometimes overly complicated procedures and applications. I would encourage and urge anyone interested in an international career to participate in the available competitions and grants offered by agencies such as NCN or NAWA, as they are freely available and beneficial (which is undoubtedly a huge plus). The Ministry and the funding agencies give annual awards to scientists who excel in their achievements, which is another strong argument to consider Poland as a potential base for building your career.