We had a small talk with Dr. Simona Celi, a member of the Board of the MeDiTATe project. She is a Senior scientist at Fondazione Toscana G. Monasterio (FTGM) and co-founder of the BioCardioLab. In her experience, she participated to several National and International research projects and currently she is the technical Project Investigator (PI) and sub-unit PI of three national research grants. During the project, she will be supervising ESR09, ESR10 and ESR14.

The MeDiTATe project, a research proposal funded by the European Commission in the framework of Horizon 2020 programme. Can you tell us about FTGM and its role in the project?

FTGM is one of the main clinical centres in Italy. It is a public highly specialized centre for the treatment of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases for both adults and paediatrics, including rare diseases of special interest, such as congenital heart disease. FTGM is characterised by an internal bioengineering unit with a highly specialized laboratory (BioCardioLab) to support physicians with several research activities, such as advanced image processing, artificial intelligence, numerical simulation, 3D printing and experimental activities. In the context of the Meditate project, in fact, FTGM participate with 3 ESRs hosted by BioCardioLab. Research covers both numerical and experimental activities.  The aim of ESR9 is to identify morphological/bio-humoral/hemodynamic variables which are of great importance in aneurysm stabilization or rapture, through Big Data Analysis techniques. The aim of ESR10 is to develop a combined experimental and computational platform to model the Endovascular Aneurysm Repair (EVAR) Procedure for ascending thoracic aortic aneurysm treatment. The aim of ESR14 is contributing to the development of a new tool for estimating non-invasively hemodynamic descriptors in the aorta, such as blood flow and pressure, through dynamic Doppler Ultrasound imaging. Finally, FTGM is lead of the ethical aspects concerning MeDiTATe project.

Could you briefly explain why the presence of a real clinical entity can be an important asset for this project?

Well, there are several added values concerning the presence of a clinical centre. From one hand the high level of competences in the cardiovascular field from both medical and engineering point of view that is fundamental for a deep knowledge and comprehension of the aneurysmatic diseases, and from the other hand the translation aspect of the biomedical research. Our ESRs have the opportunity to be immersed in a real clinical environment and have the possibility to see the real needs of a physicians and all the activities that a bioengineer can provide to them.

What are the challenges that the candidates are facing while operating “on the field”? Which skills do you think that the fellow will acquire at the end of this journey?

All the members of the MEDITATE consortium work in closed synergy to provide a real working experience in different scenario from academia and research centres to industry. In the biomedical research we have to combine to several complex aspects that requires technical competences but also the capability to translate them towards clinics. Their experience in an hospital could heal the early-stage researchers towards this vision supporting them in their career. From a technical point of view the presence of research clinical and biomedical center is an added value since it can provide a pragmatic view for an exploitable solutions and applications.

As member of MeDiTATe’s Board and Director of BioCardioLab, you play roles of great responsibility. Also considering that in the MeDiTATe project half of the ESRs are women, do you think that this project can inspire more women to pursue their career in STEM field?

In context of the Meditate project we have demonstrate that science is neutral. All the ESR have been selected for their scientific profile. We have a natural gender balance at different levels, not only for the ESRs enrolled but also for the tutors and for the key persons. This is the only way that I can image for science. In my daily activities, I try to promote STEM without any kind of bias, and if this can inspire more women to pursue careers in STEM, I have achieved a new goal.

Any message for our readers?

Follow your dreams, work with passion, and do everything you can to achieve them. Do not stop learning.