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Interview with Dr. Giulia Quattrocolo (Humans of Neuroscience)

Dr. Giulia Quattrocolo, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist and postdoctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, Norway. Her goal is to understand the role of different types of neurons in the development of neuronal circuits.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid, I loved watching Perry Mason (an American legal drama television series), so I wanted to be a lawyer. Then, I discovered that we don’t say “Objection!” in the Italian courts, so I thought that it would be no fun. For a while, I thought about studying geology to be a volcanologist. But when it was time to really make a decision on what to study at university, I went for biology.

How did you discover your interest in the brain, and when was that?

It was during a class on general physiology, when I was in my second year at university. The professor explained the Pacini corpuscle (a type of mechanoreceptor that responds to pressure and vibration) and how the mechanical deflection is transformed into an electrical signal. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever heard. I really think that single class changed my life. After that, I decided to join a neurophysiology lab for my undergrad research and then continue with a master’s in neurobiology. And here I am more than 10 years later.

What is your current career and involvement in neuroscience and/or psychology?

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Edvard Moser at the Kavli Institute in Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim, Norway. I am studying the role of Cajal-Retzius cells (a transient population of cells important during development) in the maturation of the hippocampal network and of hippocampal-dependent behaviors.

How does neuroscience and/or psychology impact your everyday life?

My husband, Maximiliano Nigro, is also a neuroscientist, and we work in the same department. So somehow neuroscience follows me home!

What are the hardest parts of your work?

I think, right now, the uncertainty of what will happen next. [My husband and I] are approaching the time when we should move on to the next step in our careers and hopefully get faculty positions. But finding two positions will be very hard. In addition, we recently had a baby, so of course that puts even more pressure on us.

Is there a scientific topic outside of the brain that you find very fascinating?

I have always been fascinated by physics, especially astronomy. But I usually try not to read about science when I need to take a break. I am also really interested in history, especially medieval history, so I tend to read a lot about it.

Do you have any thoughts you would like to share with younger generations of students interested in the brain?

I think the most important thing is to learn to be confident in what you know and your ideas. The project that I am working on [right now] is something I wanted to study for many years. It took a while before I was confident enough in my abilities to actually approach a PI and say “Look, this is what I want to do. I think it could be really interesting.” I was lucky enough to find people that agreed with me and gave me the possibility to pursue my ideas.

Please note that this interview was conducted in 2019. We have recently reformatted and made minor clarity edits to publish on the Simply Neuroscience Blog!



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