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Meet Our First Leonardo Fellow: Chapter 1 of 3

Can I help animals and make a living out of it?

Growing up with a passion

You know that time in your life when, to the question “how are you?” your one and only sincere answer would be “confused”? If you are familiar with this feeling, you will entirely and empathically follow this short story of mine. I’ve always loved animals, since I can remember. In those silent creatures, I see a meaning to life and to the world’s continuous motion. I am lucky enough to have grown up with a pair of Italian, crazy, and very supportive parents. Since my childhood, they have been feeding me with pasta, pizza, and animal books. It was one of those very books, given to me by my dad, that introduced me to Dr. Ilaria Capua: her book,“Idee per diventare veterinario” (in English: “Ideas to become a veterinarian”). The obvious career prospect for me was to be an animal doctor, dedicating my life to their health and well-being. Little did I know there is so much more about that!

Off to London for University

I won’t go into the details of my academic life decisions, especially on the brainwork that it took, otherwise this blog piece would turn into an 18th century novel. Just to offer a quick summary, I had indeed decided to study animals. What is best for studying animals, and in Latin means, “the study of animals”? Yes, Zoology. So, I left the pasta country when I was 18 years old, waved a temporary goodbye to Rome, and moved to London, where I attended Queen Mary University and got my degree (a first, yay!) in the wonderfulness of the animal kingdom. I then moved on to my Master degree in Conservation Science at Imperial College. In brief: let us study all the ways in which we can save animals and keep them as an integral part of this planet. I loved it.

From Big Ben to monkeys and poo

Throughout these four very British years, can you guess which discipline had particularly fascinated me? Diseases, the same passion that drove me to write my own thesis project and to literally send myself to pick up monkey poo samples in Costa Rica for two months. Don’t know about you, but that gastrointestinal disease assessment was just really calling to me. Clearly, my vet focus hadn’t left and I was, and still am, greatly passionate about epidemiology and animal diseases and researching ways to analyse and fight pathogens. Okay, so here I was: I love animals, studying and finding cures for diseases is really cool, I see that human impact can cause epidemics in animals and on all levels, and I want to work in finding a way to stop it.

What now?

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