I completed my undergraduate degree in Physics Engineering at Politecnico di Milano, Italy, where I developed a fascination for the intersection of physics and biology. While this wasn't my primary area of study, I pursued my interest in biology and went on to develop microscopy and magnetic methods for biological studies in my Bachelor’s and Master’s theses.
My passion for biophysics led me to pursue a PhD at University College London, UK, where I developed a combined optical tweezers and light sheet microscopy setup for studying weak single-molecule interactions on live cells. After obtaining my PhD, I shifted my focus from instrument development towards the application of biophysical methods for the study of biological questions, which brought me to Marta Bally’s group in May 2020.
Currently, my project, funded by a Marie Skłodowska Curie Action Individual Fellowship, focuses on the interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 glycoprotein spike and the cell membrane. This large homotrimeric glycoprotein gives the name to the coronaviridae family and is responsible for receptor engagement and membrane fusion. Additionally, the spike has been shown to interact with several plasma membrane components with lower affinity, which may act as coreceptors in the viral entry process. My research investigates the role of coreceptors, bond multivalency, and membrane complexity in regulating viral binding kinetics to the cell membrane. I am particularly interested in the role of glycosaminoglycans and how it is evolving in new variants. To study the interaction between the spike and the cell membrane, I am using a range of biophysical techniques such as total internal reflection microscopy, quartz crystal microbalance, and a variety of models, including supported lipid bilayers containing plasma membrane extracts, pseudotyped viruses, and spike-decorated liposomes as virus mimics.
Aside from my main project, I am also contributing to the study of binding kinetics and diffusion of other viruses as adenoviruses, herpes simplex, and papilloma.