PhD student
Group of Prof Dick B. Janssen, Department of Biotechnology, University of Groningen 
Contact email:
ES-Cat start date: 1st May 2017

2015: Bachelor’s degree in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnologies at the University of Bari Aldo Moro (IT). The thesis “Analysis of cells in mice model of Friedreich’s Ataxia” had the aim of examining tissues of mice treated with diazoxide for 3 months (long term study), in particular the occurrence of oxidative stress and the expression of frataxin. I was under the supervision of Prof. Carlo Marya Thomas Marobbio.
2016: Master’s Degree in Medical Biotechnologies and Molecular Medicine at University of Bari Aldo Moro (IT). The title of the thesis is “Identification of new highly selective inhibitors for Asp/Glu mitochondrial carriers discovered by molecular docking and in vitro transport assays”. I used several computer programs for activators/inhibitors discovery. I combined dry and wet experimental research in my thesis to find new inhibitors, under the supervision of Prof. Ciro Leonardo Pierri and Ass. Prof. Anna De Grassi. My scientific interests are computational approaches applied to chemistry and biology.

Training and Transferable Skills:

  • Use of programs, databases and web-services such as NCBI/Blast, UCSC Genome Browser, Jalview, Bioedit, Psipred, Pymol, Autodock, SPDBV, Chimera and Python.
  • Molecular docking for virtual screening of compound libraries.
  • Heterologous expression of membrane transport proteins in different E. coli strains (BL21, CO214) and purification protocols.
  • SDS-PAGE, Western Blot, Oxyblot, UV-Vis Spectophotometry.
  • Reconstitution experiments for building proteoliposomes and estimating protein transport activity through in vitro transport assays.

Research Projects:
The PhD programme aims to improve direct evolution protocols for enzyme engineering by integrating computational methods into the design of mutant libraries. Earlier, the University of Groningen group investigated a strategy for improving the thermo- and solvent stability of different enzymes. Now we explore a strategy (CASCO) that use computational approaches including molecular docking and molecular dynamics simulations with scoring of near attack conformers to engineer enzyme selectivity. My PhD project will evaluate experimental data from mutant libraries and use the results to improve computational design protocols. This will support the design of small mutant libraries of enzymes with tailored catalytic properties